Mother love: the history and euphemisms for the most obscene English polysyllable.

The History of Our Most Obscene Polysyllable  

The History of Our Most Obscene Polysyllable  

Lexicon Valley
A Blog About Language
May 12 2015 9:58 AM

Mother Love: The Many Euphemisms for Our Most Obscene Polysyllable

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This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing.

By their euphemisms shall ye know them.

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I am hardened—how not?—but I gather that motherfucker, that “Oedipal polysyllable,” remains the most (least?) popular of all the so-called “obscenities.” The dirtiest of the dirty, the least permissible among all the tabooed. Rivaled only by cunt, and of course far, far younger as a coinage, it is presumably the innate incestuousness that gets everyone’s knickers in a twist. This is not just to have sex, but to have sex with your, omigod, mother. It seems to have been an African-American coinage, of the 1890s, and it may even be that the extra distaste it elicits offers a smidgen of racism. Like the impetus for America’s earliest cannonades in its war on drugs—the fact that cannabis was linked to Mexicans and cocaine to blacks was justification enough to condemn the products—the word may be double-damned by association.

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Motorcycle is just one of many euphemisms for, you know.

Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images

It might be suggested that compared with those for copulation—some 1,750 alternatives—or for the male and female genitals—around 1,400 apiece—motherfucker scores low for euphemisms. What, after all are all those synonyms, those gropings for trout in a peculiar river, those holy pokers, and aphrodisiacal tennis courts but ways of sidestepping fuck, prick, and cunt? Yet they are sidesteps and, deprived of context, might not immediately reveal themselves. Motherfucker’s alternatives are less coy. Barely, I would suggest, alternatives at all. That, of course, could be the point.

I doubt that the 65 that follow are a complete roster. The terror of certain strings of vowels and consonants that still stalks much of our mass media will ensure that. But they are what I have found to date. I look forward to additions.

double-clutcher
emeff
futhermucker
granny-jazzer
mafa
mahthafukker
mama-huncher
mama-jabber
mama-jammer
mammy-dogger
mammy-dugger
mammy-jammer
mammy-jammy
mammy-rammer
mammy-tapper
mary frances
maw-dicker
melon-farmer
mickey-fickey
Mister Franklin
modicker
mofo
molly-dodger
mollywopper
momma-hopper
mothafucka
mother-bugger
mother-feryer
mother-flicker
mother-flunker
mother-for-you
mother-fouler
mother-fuyer
mother-grabber
mother-hopper
mother-hubber
mother-hugger
mother-humper
mother-huncher
mother-jiver
mother-jumper
mother-lover
mother-plugger
mother-raper
mother-rubber
mother-sucker
motheren
motherfrigger
motherfucker
motherfugger
motherhead
motherhubbard
motheroo
mother superior
motorcycle
muddy funster
mugger-bugger
mugger-fugger
muh-fugger
muthafucka
m’fucka
triple-clutcher