Did “yo momma” jokes originate with Shakespeare? Well, no. Insulting people’s mothers probably goes back much further, but the Shakespeare Your Mom joke is still one of our best and earliest examples.
There’s no doubt that The Bard had some epic insults in his works. For example, in Act 2, Scene 2 of King Lear one character calls another a “base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.”
It’s overkill, but it’s funny.
The Shakespeares Your Mom joke
As for the early “yo momma” joke, that comes from Act 4, Scene 2 of Titus Andronicus. Chiron and Demetrius are insulting Aaron, who has slept with their mother.
Demetrius: “Villain, what hast thou done?”
Aaron: “That which thou canst not undo.”
Chiron: “Thou hast undone our mother.”
Aaron: “Villain, I have done thy mother.”
It actually gets pretty grim after that when the brothers are baked in a pie and served to that same mother. Shakespeare didn’t shy away from violence or other eye-popping acts.
“Yo momma” jokes are at least 3500 years old. But we don’t necessarily expect to see them in Shakespeare. And that’s part of what makes it all so funny.
People love their mom’s so much that insulting them is just about the worst thing someone can say.
Shakespeare’s linguistic legacy
The Shakespeare mom joke was far from his only legacy. Shakespeare also left us with some common phrases that have nothing to do with one’s mother, such as:
– “For goodness sake” – Henry VIII
– “Neither here nor there” – Othello
– “A wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet
– “Not slept one wink” –Cymbeline
– “Send him packing” – Henry IV
– “Vanish into thin air” – Othello
Source: “William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday: The five best insults ever dished out by the Bard” — The Independent