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I find “Top 10 Yo Mama So Fat Stupid Joke List” including ‘Yo mama so stupid that she got hit by a parked car’, “Top 10 Yo Mama So Fat List” including ‘Yo mama so fat she put on her lipstick with a paint-roller,' and “Top 10 Yo Mama So Ugly List” including Yo mama so ugly when she died she went to Heaven and God said I didn't creat you,' on an website.

Based on Google Ngram, the word, ‘yo mama’ and its counterpart, ‘yo papa’ came into use in circ 1935 and their currency started to show a sharp rise from around 2000.

Although none of Cambridge, Oxford, and Merriam-Webster English dictionary registers the word, either ‘yo mama,’ or ‘yo momma,’ Wikipedia defines it as the alternative form of ‘your mother.’

However, when ‘Yo mama’ is used as in ‘yo mama jokes,’ it appears to me that the meaning of ‘your mom’ drops off,’ and turns into a generic, any (fat, stupid, ugly, ---) woman-related jokes. Am I right?

Is it possible to extend ‘yo mama (papa) ’ to other subjects such as ‘yo mama (papa) episodes,’ ‘ yo mama (papa) lessons,’’ yo mama (papa) saying,’’ yo mama (papa) blunders / guffes’ than ‘yo mama’ jokes?

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Related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dozens –  Nate Eldredge Mar 27 '13 at 4:11
    
Yo mama, an' yo papa, an' yo bald-headed sistah... –  MT_Head Mar 27 '13 at 4:46
    
Here's an old cartoon from Achewood. Philippe the baby otter (who's 5 years old and very innocent) meets his friends (they're cats - it's a comic strip) sitting at a café telling mama jokes. He doesn't quite get the concept... achewood.com/index.php?date=05202004 –  MT_Head Mar 27 '13 at 4:52
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@YoichiOishi: Here's a question you may be able to answer: english.stackexchange.com/questions/108625/… –  Hugo Mar 27 '13 at 12:10
    
@Hugo. I posted the comment in answer to the above mentioned question, though it’s pity to find his question being 'close'-labeled. –  Yoichi Oishi Mar 29 '13 at 0:50
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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

"Yo mama" does mean "your mother." The "yo mama" jokes are more or less humorous insults, used as a sort of verbal sparring on the street. Without going into its origins, the way this arose amongst those who created it was this: a person's mother is sacrosanct, an untouchable icon, so insulting someone's mother was a particularly effective way of getting the better of that person. What you are seeing is a watered-down version for the purpose of making it more generally accessible and more humorous, so the reference to someone's actual mother is diminished, but not to the point of turning it into generically "any woman."

And given the nature of the material, I for one can't see it being extended into other versions such as the ones you suggest.

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This is reminiscent of my childhood when we used to chant “Your mama has an outie,” around a weak boy. “Your mama has an outie (protruding navel),” was a most popular buzzword or mantra for bullying and mocking a playmate in my childhood. –  Yoichi Oishi Mar 28 '13 at 5:33
    
@YoichiOishi - Lol. Well, that's just plain bullying. The Dozens is making a game about being able to keep your cool in the face of that kind of bullying. (The distinction is part of why I made a separate answer) Some speculate that it was created because developing that ability was literally a matter of life and death for black people in the USA for a while. –  T.E.D. Mar 28 '13 at 16:11
    
@T.E.D. I first learnt the word, Lol. I could find its meaning on a dictionary at hand, but it doesn't show how to pronounce the word. The dictionary says it's an internet community word, but can be used even face-to-face. Is that true? How do you pronounce it face-toface? –  Yoichi Oishi Mar 29 '13 at 22:10
    
@YoichiOishi - Mostly you don't. You just laugh. The lol is there to indicate in online writing that you are laughing. Lately I have occasionally heard someone try to do it by saying "loll" (Short o, like in lollypop), but I doubt that's actually a thing. –  T.E.D. Mar 30 '13 at 2:11
    
@T.E.D. I promised myself when I got enough reputation to post a comment, I'd show you this video of David Mitchell discussing "LOL": youtu.be/j_x5cfdwP98 –  Tyler James Young May 4 '13 at 16:00
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Yes, 'yo momma' is a non-rhotic pronunciation (dropped-r) of 'your momma'. Note the usual exposition is

yo momma so fat/stupid/...

which also has dropped the copula (the 'is'). In standard English it would read 'your mother is so fat/stupid'). Though I don't know the history of the joke, this sounds like AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) or also Southern American English from the southern US. AAVE and SAE have many similar features (the above two plus monophthongization, like sounding 'Ah' for 'I').

'yo momma' jokes are always referring specifically to your mother. On e might tell the joke as 'She so fat...' or 'That man so stupid...' and then it is about those people.

As to extending, no, the pattern is simply 'yo momma so X that ...' and that's it.

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Yes, it is "your".

These "jokes" are actually an artifact of The Dozens, a one-on-one game of verbal sparring where the object is to rattle the other party so badly that they can't come up with a good retort. It helps a lot if the insults are funny, as your opponent's embarrassment from the crowd reaction can do most of your work for you. Since each statement is directed at your opponent, they almost always start with "Your ...".

Since this game was developed by African Americans, it is often played entirely in African-American Vernacular English. In that dialect, "your" is pronounced "yo".

Since the object is to rattle the other player, it pays to find and attack the thing your opponent is going to be most sensitive or emotional about. Hence the popularity of funny "Yo momma" insults.

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+1 Correct. And playing the game is called "doing the dozens." –  John M. Landsberg Mar 28 '13 at 4:48
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