When did it become badass to be a “motherfucker”? Around the 1950s. People have been calling each other motherfuckers for over a century, but until World War II the term was typically used as an insult. The earliest citations of motherfucker and motherfucking in the Oxford English Dictionary come from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they give a sense for how seriously the word was taken. The OED’s first citation of the word comes from the Texas Court of Appeals’ account of the 1889 trial of Levy v. State, where witnesses describe a defendant being called a “God damned mother-f—cking, bastardly son-of-a-bitch.” It’s perhaps revealing that, of the four expletives, mother-fucking is the only one to get censored.
Occasionally people make the mistake of asking me where a word comes from. They never make this mistake twice… A chap once asked me where the word biscuit came from. He was eating one at the time and had been struck by curiosity.
I explained to him that a biscuit is cooked twice, or in French bi-cuit, and he thanked me for that. So I added that the bi in biscuit is the same bi that you get in bicycle and bisexual, to which he nodded. And then, just because it occurred to me, I told him that the word bisexual wasn’t invented until the 1890s and that it was coined by a psychiatrist called Richard von Krafft-Ebing and did he know that Ebing also invented the word masochism?
He told me firmly that he didn’t.
Did he know about Mr. Masoch, after whom masochism was named? He was a novelist and…
The fellow told me that he didn’t know about Mr. Masoch, that he didn’t want to know about Mr. Masoch, and that his one ambition in life was to eat his biscuit in peace.
(from The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth)
I ASPIRE TO BE MARK FORSYTH