Son of a gun
Son of a gun is an exclamation or a noun in American and British English. It can be used encouragingly or to compliment, as in "You son of a gun, you did it!" Or may be used sarcastically, as in "You son of a gun, that's not how you do it!"
The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary and Webster's Dictionary both define "son of a gun" in American English as an euphemism for son of a bitch. Encarta Dictionary defines the term in a different way as someone "affectionately or kindly regarded." The term can also be used as an interjection expressing surprise, mild annoyance or disappointment.
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The phrase potentially has its origin in a Royal Navy requirement that pregnant women aboard naval vessels give birth in the space between the broadside guns, in order to keep the gangways and crew decks clear. Admiral William Henry Smyth wrote in his 1867 book, The Sailor's Word-Book: "Son of a gun, an epithet conveying contempt in a slight degree, and originally applied to boys born afloat, when women were permitted to accompany their husbands to sea; one admiral declared he literally was thus cradled, under the breast of a gun-carriage."
Alternatively, historian Brian Downing proposes that the phrase "son of a gun" originated from feudal knights' disdain for newly developed firearms and those who wielded them. An American urban myth also proposes that the saying originated in a story reported in the October 7, 1864 The American Medical Weekly about a woman impregnated by a bullet that went through a soldier's scrotum and into her abdomen. The story about the woman was a joke written by Dr. Legrand G. Capers; some people who read the weekly failed to realize that the story was a joke and reported it as true. This myth was the subject of an episode of the television show MythBusters, in which experiments showed the story implausible.
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- "Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry". Retrieved 2006-06-02.
- "Webster's Dictionary entry". Retrieved 2006-06-02.
- Encarta Dictionary entry. Retrieved 2006-06-02.
- Kemp, Peter (1970). The British Sailor: a social history of the lower deck. London: J.M. Dent & Sons. p. 196. ISBN 0460039571.
- Smyth, W.H. (2005). The Sailor's Word-Book: The Classic Dictionary of Nautical Terms. London: Conway Maritime. ISBN 0-85177-972-7.
- Downing, Brian (1992). The Military Revolution and Political Change: Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe. Princeton University Press. p. xi. ISBN 0691078866.
- "Bullet Pregnancy". Snopes. Retrieved July 21, 2005.
- "MythBusters Results". Retrieved 4 October 2013.