Motherfucker (sometimes abbreviated as mofo, mf, or mf'er) is an English-language vulgarism. While it is usually considered highly offensive, it is rarely used in the literal sense of one who engages in sexual activity with another person's mother, or his or her own mother. Rather, it refers to a mean, despicable, or vicious person, or any particularly difficult or frustrating situation. Alternatively, it can be a term of admiration, 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, for example when Miles Davis addressed his future percussionist Mino Cinelu: "Miles...grabbed his arm and said, 'You're a motherfucker.' Cinelu thanked Miles for the compliment."
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 by one of 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."
In popular music, the first mainstream release to include the word was the 1969 album Kick out the Jams by MC5. The title track, a live recording, is introduced by vocalist Rob Tyner shouting "And right now... right now... right now it's time to... kick out the jams, motherfuckers!". This was quickly pulled from stores, and an edited version was released with the words "brothers and sisters" overdubbed on the offending word. At about the same time, the Jefferson Airplane released the album Volunteers, the opening track of which, We Can Be Together, included the line "up against the wall, motherfucker", a popular catch phrase among radical groups at the time. This attracted less attention. The word was strongly implied, but not said explicitly, in Isaac Hayes' huge 1971 hit song "Theme from Shaft". Though rarely broadcast, the word has since become common in popular music, particularly in hip hop.
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 word has become something of a catchphrase for actor Samuel L. Jackson, who frequently utters the word in his movies. His use of the word helped him overcome a lifelong stuttering problem. Historically in India, the word 'Madarchodh' is used for Motherfucker, the word Madar being of Persian origin, as Madare Jendeh.
- 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, 14 February 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 (4 August 2006). "Kicking Asp". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 21 June 2010.
- "Samuel L. Jackson Needs Certain Swear Word To Stop His Stutter.". Huffington Post. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
- Madare Jendeh, Mother (1991 film)
- 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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