An Introduction to “Maternal Insults”

As the name states, maternal insults are statements meant to disparage, or put down, the listener’s mother. Often, these slights are known as “your mom” or “yo momma” jokes. But when did these jokes originate? And why are they so timeless?

The world’s first recorded maternal insult was inscribed on a tablet in the year 3500 BCE. The tablet, first discovered in 1976, has since been misplaced. However, images of the tablet remain. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the world’s first “yo momma” joke (Source):

Q: “..of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?”

A: [The tablet is unreadable here, but the reader is invited to guess at the answer]

Hilarious.

Perhaps the best known “yo momma” master of old was William Shakespeare, the alleged inventor of many exciting words and phrases, including “swagger”,”good riddance”, “Olivia”, and “Thanks Obama”. Here are two of his jokes, copied and pasted from Wikipedia for your viewing pleasure (Note: Shakespeare wrote all of his plays in Greek, I have kept the original Greek translation for authenticity purposes):

Original Greek:

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.” (Titus Andronicus)

English Translation:

Demetrius and Chiron are the sons of this lady. The lady just gave birth to Aaron’s kid or something.

Demetrius: Yo, what’d you do?
Aaron: Dw about it you can’t change it now
Chiron: Yo our mom isn’t like pure anymore???
Aaron: Yeah lmao I screwed her

(I’ve never read this play)

Original Greek:

Painter: “Y’are a dog.”
Apemantus: “Thy mother’s of my generation. What’s she, if I be a dog?” (Timon of Athens)

English Translation:

Apemantus hired the Painter to paint his house for him, but it’s not going so well as he’s painted the whole house yellow. Apemantus yells at the Painter and the Painter tells him he doesn’t appreciate good art. The following shouting match ensues:

Painter: You’re a bitch
Apemantus: Your mom’s a bitch

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