Motherfucker (sometimes abbreviated as mofo, mf, or mf'er) is an English language vulgarism. Its literal sense means one who fucks and/or engages in sexual activity with another person's mother, or his or her own mother, although this usage is seldom implied. Rather, it refers to a mean, despicable, or vicious person, or any particularly difficult or frustrating situation. Alternatively, it is used as a compliment, for instance in the jazz community.
Like many widely used offensive terms, motherfucker has a large list of minced oaths. Motherhumper, motherfugger, mother f'er, mothersucker, mothertrucker, motherlover, mofo, fothermucker, motherflower, motherkisser and many more are sometimes used in polite company or to avoid censorship. The participle motherfucking is often used as an emphatic, in the same way as the less strong fucking. The verb to motherfuck also exists, although it is less common. Conversely, when paired with an adjective, it can become a term denoting such things as originality and masculinity, as in the related phrase "bad ass mother fucker". Use of the term as a compliment is frequent in the jazz community, as in the compliment Miles Davis paid to his future percussionist Mino Cinelu: "Miles...grabbed his arm and said, 'You're a motherfucker.' Cinelu thanked Miles for the compliment."
Usually the word 'motherfucker' is used as a noun, as in That trig problem was a real motherfucker.
History and popular culture
The word dates back at least to the late 19th century, with a Texas court in 1889 recording a defendant being called a “God damned mother-f—cking, bastardly son-of-a-bitch” and in 1917 a black U.S. soldier called his draft board "You low-down Mother Fuckers..." in a letter.
In literature, Norman Mailer, in his 1948 novel "The Naked and the Dead" uses it occasionally, disguised as motherfugger, and used it in full in his 1967 novel "Why Are We in Vietnam?". In Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five the word is used occasionally by the soldiers in the story - leading to the novel being often challenged in libraries and schools. Vonnegut joked in a speech, published in the collection Fates Worse Than Death, that "Ever since that word was published, way back in 1969, children have been attempting to have intercourse with their mothers. When it will stop no one knows."
The word appears in George Carlin's Seven Words You Can't Say on Television. In one HBO special, he comments that at one point, someone asked him to remove it, since, as a derivative of the word "fuck", it constituted a duplication. He later added it back, claiming that the bit's rhythm doesn't work without it.
- The Compleat Motherfucker: A History of the Mother of All Dirty Words by Jim Dawson is a history of the word in black culture and in American literature, film, comedy and music.
- Cole, George (2007). The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991. U of Michigan P. p. 90. ISBN 9780472032600. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- "How Mofo Got Its Mojo", Forrest Wickman, Feb 14 2013, Slate
- "Freedom Struggles", 2010, by Adriane Danette Lentz-Smith
- "Dear Jon Stewart: Thanks For The Ride, Motherfucker", 23 June 2105, Bruce Buschel
- Vonnegut, Kurt (1992). Fates Worse Than Death. New York: Berkeley Books. p. 76. ISBN 0-425-13406-7.
- Carlin, George (1978). On Location: George Carlin at Phoenix (DVD). HBO Home Video.
- Jensen, Jeff (August 4, 2006). "Kicking Asp". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
- "Samuel L. Jackson Needs Certain Swear Word To Stop His Stutter.". Huffington Post. June 5, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- Dawson, Jim (2009). The Compleat Motherfucker: A History of the Mother of All Dirty Words. Los Angeles, Calif.: Feral House. ISBN 978-1-932595-41-3.
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