Date: Fri, 28 Jul 1995 15:19:29 CST From: salikoko mufwene Subject: Re: Your Momma -- Sexual Connotation? In Message Fri, 28 Jul 1995 14:55:25 -0400, "M. Lynne Murphy" <104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA> writes: >it's a world-wide thing--usu. reference to knowledge of someone's >mother implicates that the insulter has had sex with the other's >mother. two examples i can think of offhand: in beng (a west >african language) one insult is "your mother has a pendulous rectum." >in japanese, it's "your mother's belly button is an outie." just >saying "your mother" derives from such things, though most modern >users might not realize it. the japanese example, i'm told, is >widely used by kids who don't understand the implication. I will dispute this universal. It does not work this way in the Bantu languages that I speak. To my knowledge, the counterpart of "your mother" (as an insult) in Kituba, Lingala, and Kiyansi suggests reference to genitals but says nothing about about having sex with the relative, NOT AT ALL. The insult in the phrase may stem from the fact that names of genitals are often taboos, but I won't even speculate on this. The most direct interpretation of the insult is that there is something bad about your mother that the speaker would like to say but won't. But then the phrase is often used by people who know nothing at all about one's mother. The range of possible interpretations is quite wide. One thing I found particularly interesting in a study of Gregersen's of the early 1980's (or maybe earlier) is that it highlights a crosscultural bias against female relatives. Sali. *********************************************************************** Salikoko S. Mufwene University of Chicago Dept. of Linguistics 1010 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637 s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 312-702-8531; fax: 312-702-9861