March 04, 2015

Dirty Etymology: Motherfucker


Dirty etymology anyone? I know I'd feel better if I could sit here and mumble swear words to myself for awhile. So today, I'm going with one of my favorites. This word pleases my mouth. And I say it the way Hans Gruber said it in Die Hard. "Yippie-Ki-Yay, Motherfucker." You have to hear him speak the words. The cadence is fucking gorgeous.

So you know, I'm not the only one who is obsessed with dirty words. When I do my research, I find articles on places like Slate dedicated to the same words I'm looking for.

Apparently, the OED first cited the word in the late 19th century. It was considered only an insult for many years.

Wiki says the word literally came from men who would fuck mothers—mostly soldiers who would trade sex with hungry or needy women for money or valuable items.

Honestly, I had no idea.

I entertained myself reading the Wiki talk page about the word. People really were getting into it—"If you reference the George Carlin line, then why can't I list Snakes on a Plane?" Ah, I actually am madly in love with this Wiki sentence: "... it is used as a compliment, for instance, in the jazz community."

Norman Mailer used the word "mother-fugger" in The Naked and the Dead. He used the term "motherfuck" in "Why Are We in Vietnam?" (1967), which is considered one of the earliest recorded instances.

Slate says, "By the late 50s and 60s, motherfucker finally became, in some usages, a positive description."

Aw, I love that. Finally. As if we'd been waiting.

Now, I'm just sitting here in complete wonderment. Why? Because I landed on The Compleat Motherfucker: A History of the Mother of All Dirty Words.

So you know what? I am going to buy and read that book, and I'll come back to you with a review and more information. I mean, I owe that much to the word I use daily, don't I?

XXX,
Alison

1 comment:

Miz Angell said...

My favourite use of it in the movies is in Wildcats (1986) - Goldie Hawn is in a custody battle with her soon-to-be-ex, and she's speaking to the judge. Her ex wants her to teach at an uppity finishing school and stop coaching football at an inner-city school.

He tried to make me give up the one thing that made me feel good about myself, so I called him a mother-fucker...which...which...is...linguistically correct, because I'm a mother and he....used to...

Always cracks me up. But yes, Hans Gruber's use is a close second, and sexier by far.