A maternal insult (also referred to as a "yo mama" joke) is a reference to a person's mother through the use of phrases such as "your mother" or other regional variants, frequently used to insult the target by way of their mother. Used as an insult, "your mother ..." preys on widespread sentiments of filial piety, making the insult particularly and globally offensive. "Your mother" can be combined with most types of insults, although suggestions of promiscuity are particularly common. Insults based on obesity, height, hairiness, laziness, incest, age, race, poverty, poor hygiene, unattractiveness, or stupidity may also be used. Compared to other types of insults, "your mother" insults are especially likely to incite violence. Slang variants such as "yo mama", "yo momma", "yer ma", "ya mum", "ur mom", "your mum" or "your mom" are sometimes used, depending on the local dialect. Insults involving "your mother" are commonly used when playing the Dozens.
Although the phrase has a long history of including a description portion, such as the old "your mother wears combat boots", the phrase "yo mama" by itself, without any qualifiers, has become commonly used as an all-purpose insult or an expression of defiance.
Painter: "Y'are a dog."
Apemantus: "Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog?"
Also in Act IV, Scene II of Titus Andronicus, Aaron taunts his lover's sons:
Demetrius: "Villain, what hast thou done?"
Aaron: "That which thou canst not undo."
Chiron: "Thou hast undone our mother."
Aaron: "Villain, I have done thy mother."
Similar phrases are used in different languages
- Andrew Conway (1994). "You're ugly, your dick is small and everybody's afraid to fuck your mother: The Stand Up Comedian's Response to the Heckler". Maledicta. 11. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- Millicent R. Ayoub and Sephen A. Barnett (October–December 1965). "Ritualized Verbal Insult in White High School Culture". The Journal of American Folklore. American Folklore Society. 78 (310): 337–344. doi:10.2307/538441. JSTOR 538441. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
- Jeffries, Stuart (2006-06-12). "The mother of all insults". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2006-12-06.