Posted by ESC on October 31, 2002
In Reply to: Son of a bitch. posted by Stan on October 31, 2002
: Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't I see this phrase in Homer's Odyssey? Though many phrases from the Bible outdate this one, if so, it may be the oldest insult still very much in use today. Thanks
I came up with several dates -- the earliest, 1605.
SON OF A BITCH - ".The four-word epithet,' as it has been called, was first recorded in 1688 and is probably centuries older in forms like 'bitchsone.'." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
"Son of a bitch was first recorded in England in 1712, 'bitch' (Old English 'bicce') having meant female dog since before the 10th century, and an immoral woman since the 15th. By the 1780s 'son of a bitch' was one of the most offensive and common American insults." It was used so much by the American soldiers in World War I that Frenchmen called the soldiers "les sommobiches.'." From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).
It's been a "general term of abuse, dating from at least the time of Shakespeare. 'son and heir of a mongrel bitch.' King Lear, II, ii . From "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition).