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YOUR mama - the Dozens

Posted by Spn on January 26, 2003

In Reply to: YOUR mama - the Dozens posted by ESC on January 24, 2003

: : : My girlfriend said this to me the other day, LOL. It made me wonder where it came from. Is it an Army thing? A jab at implied lesbianism? Something that infers she's homely? It sounds like something from the 1940's or 50's. Anyone have any thoughts?

: : "Mean and ugly--and she has no fashion sense." That's what I get from it.

: THE DOZENS - ".a game of verbal jousting constructed on insults directed in large part toward the mother of one's opponent, was widespread in black culture by the early 20th century. Langston Hughes lyrically glorified the Dozens in the poem 'Ask Your Mama'." This reference lists six possible theories for the origin of "the Dozens" starting with: "Insulting rhymes that progressed from 1 to 12, describing the lewd acts that the opponent's mother enjoyed." Variations to "the Dozens" are "playing the Dozens," "putting someone in the Dozens" and "shooting the Dozens." From "Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov (Oxford University Press, New York, 1997).

: Another reference calls it: "A verbal ritual of talking negatively about someone's mother (or occasionally grandmothers and other female relatives) by coming up with outlandish, highly exaggerated, often sexual loaded, humorous 'insults'; played among friends, associates, and those 'hip' to the game. The objective is to outtalk one's competitor, get the most laughs from the group and not lose emotional control. A fundamental rule is that the 'slander' must not literally be true." Most players are male. This source says the Dozens comes from a slave era custom of selling sick or old slaves in lots of 12. "Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner" by Geneva Smitherman (Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, N.Y., 1994)

: My husband reminded me about a scene in Steve Martin's "Roxanne" , an update of Cyrano de Bergerac. There is a ".bar scene where Charlie is called upon to come up with 20 nose jokes to silence a loudmouth is truly one the 80s memorable movie scenes." I wonder what connection this has with the Dozens.