4.1151 The Final Words on `Mother' (3/58)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 11 Mar 91 17:12:02 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1151. Monday, 11 Mar 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 08 Mar 91 17:32:58 EST (21 lines)
From: Steve Mason <SHLOMO@VM1.YorkU.CA>
Subject: A real mother!

(2) Date: Sat, 9 Mar 91 17:18 EST (22 lines)
Subject: "Mother" one more time

(3) Date: Sun, 10 Mar 91 17:29 O (15 lines)
Subject: mother of...

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 08 Mar 91 17:32:58 EST
From: Steve Mason <SHLOMO@VM1.YorkU.CA>
Subject: A real mother!

The impressive analyses of "mother of ..." that followed Timothy
Reuter's query have demonstrated once and for all the polyvalence of
language. Who really cares what SAD'm *intended*? Or perhaps we could
get him on HUMANIST to tell us what he meant; he might disappoint us all!

Actually, one obvious possibility seems to have been missed. Those who
think that the expression sounds strange in English haven't been riding
the right buses. I've certainly heard things like "Don't mess with him,
man; he's a MEAN muthah!" Problem is, I fear that this usage
abbreviates something else. And surely SAD'm is too much of a statesman
to use such language. But it would fit the context, no?

Let me redeem myself, if I can, by agreeing with those who find the
genitive epexegetical rather than partitive.

Steve Mason
Humanities, York U.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Sat, 9 Mar 91 17:18 EST
Subject: "Mother" one more time

In the discussion of "Mother of....." I'm surprised no one has yet
considered the "listener response" aspect of the phrase. For that, too,
constitutes a meaning even though that meaning may be far from what
Saddam Hussein intended or from whatever historical/linguistic/
metaphoric dimensions the term may have.

I refer, of course, to that usage so prevalent in the US military of
"mother" as a truncated form of that twelve letter Oedipal epithet.
Usually pronounced "mothuh," the term, I am sure, conjured up for
Schwartzkopf and other military personnel (nunc et quondam) visions of a
battle that indeed could or would be a mother but one that would also
put an end to that mother, Saddam Hussein.

I can't believe either that that meaning was not in the minds of
broadcasters as well, nor that it was not quick to pop into the minds of
viewers and listeners to Brokaw and others.

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------17----
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 91 17:29 O
Subject: mother of...

In Arabic the words "umm" or "ab" can be used attributively, as in
"abu daqn" ("a bearded man"), "abu khamsa gineeh" ("the one over
there that costs five pounds"). "umm el ma'aarek" is not
attributive, and means just what it says: the battle to beat
all battles. This usage is borne out by the parallel phrase
meaning the defeat to beat all defeats.

[The above contributed by Robin Dougherty, my local Arabist...]

Graham White
American University in Cairo