"slang" (1746); favorable insults

Jocelyn Limpert jocelyn.limpert at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 25 09:01:41 UTC 2009

As a white woman moving to Washington, DC, in the late '60s I was very
surprised at how offended a black male friend of mine was when I called him
a "son of a bitch," almost taking it literally that I was calling him a
bastard and also calling his mother a bitch -- whereas, I was just saying
what white people always said to refer to anyone. I would have thought then
that "motherfucker," which I had never heard until living in DC would have
been much more offensive, rather than part of the common vernacular among
blacks, who seemed to think nothing of it and certainly didn't think that
using it meant one was really fucking one's mother. Now, almost 50 years
later, I still say "son of a bitch," and am not comfortable saying
"motherfucker," but I am conscious of not using it around black people
because of the sensitivity many have to it. Also, I think nothing of
referring to a woman as "bitch," but try not to refer to black women as
bitches as they seem to find it very offensive, whereas white women do not
interpret it the same way.

Also, in those days I thought calling anyone an "asshole" was really vulgar.
But in recent years it has become a common thing to say, and I have no idea
if white people react any differently to this than black people. . .it
certainly is in common usaage.

On Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 4:39 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "slang" (1746); favorable insults
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 3:04 PM, Jonathan
> Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> quoted:
> "... splices like a son of a b----h ..."
> surprisingly commenting only upon the phrase, "son of a bitch,"
> overlooking this early example of
> "... _VERB like a_ son of a bitch ..."
> Anecdote. Ca.1963, my mother told me that a white woman-friend of hers
> had told her that, whereas white men use "son of a bitch," black men
> use "motherfucker" and asked me whether this assertion was indeed
> factual. (Mom does not associate with members of the lower orders of
> *any* race.) I assured her that, yes, indeed, was most certainly the
> case.
> Now, all we need is an early print example of, e.g. a black sailor
> saying, "... splices like a motherfucker ...,"
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -----
> -Mark Twain
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