Abstract: It’s the classic rejoinder: “Your Mom!” Jeepers… I’m laughing uproariously right now, just typing the words! But what is this ubiquitous bit of linguistic magic all about? Where did it come from? What exactly does it mean? Is there, in fact, a Real Thing called ‘Your Mom’? Is it, you know, some sort of insult… and ought your actual mom to have an opinion about it? I bet she does. [snicker]
So here’s the thing. We spend so much time on this blog analyzing terms like ‘logical coherence,’ ‘metaphysical grounding,’ ‘epistemic hoo-ha,’ ‘frozen ontological patties,’ ‘what the heck,’ ‘wamwam,’ ‘treadknicious,’ ‘um-bum-bety-boom,’ and ‘eWeeWee,’ that we appear to have overlooked one of the classics.
What about the expression “your mom” [snicker]?
Perhaps it should be noted, by way of introduction, that linguistics and metaphysics are not the same thing and do not necessarily cover the same territory.
“Dang!” i can hear you saying. “What the consarn tootin’ heck are metaguistics, and that other one you said right afterward?”
Ah, an excellent line of inquiry, gentle reader. What we mean here is simply that just because we have a word for something, that doesn’t mean that the something actually is a real thing in the real world.
‘Unicorns,’ for instance. We have a word for them, but they’re not real.
Unicorn #1: Up yours, buddy!
Unicorn #2: Paul! Calm yourself. The man spoke in ignorance.
Unicorn #3: If he’s going to go around listing off the things that aren’t real, why doesn’t he start with his own intelligence quotient?
Unicorn #2: [sigh] You fellows just need to chill out for a bit. Why don’t we go graze awhile. Maybe by the time we come back, he’ll have said something sensible.
Unicorn #1: Not much risk of that, if you ask me.
[The three unicorns exit, stage left. Meanwhile, the Blogger continues, unaware that his blog has been host to three unicorns.]
The Blogger: So, the first question we have to ask is this: does the term “Your Mom” mean anything at all, anything that actually exists in the Real World?
The Good Reader: Well, MY Mom certainly exists. I got a letter from her just a few days ago. And she calls about once a week to see if i’m married yet.
The Blogger: Ah, but that’s not what we mean when we use the expression “Your Mom.” We’re not talking about your mom.
The Good Reader: Oh. Wow. I could have sworn.
The Blogger: No, it’s more of a universal expression. It means something more like, “One’s Mom,” or, “That sort of philosophically-defined Mom over there.” Or even, something like “You’re a weenie.”
The Good Reader: Ah. But when you say to me, “Your Mom,” i figure you mean, “My Mom.” You know. It just sort of figures.
The Blogger: Well… i suppose that is one possible meaning of the expression.
The Good Reader: Well gee. Thank you.
The Blogger: There’s probably a range of possible meanings of the term “Your Mom.”
The Good Reader: [dubiously] Maybe.
The Blogger: Well, let’s experiment! Let’s see how many possible definitions we can come up with for the expression, “Your Mom.”
The Good Reader: Um. Okay. Knock yourself out.
The Blogger: So, to begin: One possible definition of the expression ‘Your Mom’ is, “the woman at whose o’er-brimming paps you nursed as a wee, itsy-bitsy infant.”
The Good Reader: Okay. That makes sense. You said it kind of funny, but i guess we can let that go.
The Blogger: And another definition of ‘Your Mom’ would be Russia. You know, as in “Mother Russia.”
The Good Reader: Um. Okay. I don’t think that’s what people have in mind when they say the expression, ‘Your Mom.’
The Blogger: …and of course, ‘Your Mom’ can also mean, “a Crock Pot somewhat in need of being washed because it’s got cheesy material encrusted on it.”
The Good Reader: That’s not even a thing!
The Blogger: It most certainly is.
The Good Reader: What? You’re a wee wee.
The Blogger: [chuckling] At least you didn’t call me an eWeeWee.
The Good Reader: Um. What.
The Blogger: Didn’t you notice? Oh dear…”eWeeWee” was one of the technical terms listed at the beginning of this blog post.
The Good Reader: That… what? I don’t even.
The Blogger: But back to the topic at hand. Your denial that the expression “Your Mom” as indicative of “a Crock Pot somewhat in need of being washed” is a real thing.
The Good Reader: I can’t even think about that anymore. I’m still thinking of “eWeeWee.” Is that a sound that you made up yourself, or did you overhear one of the kids on the street corner saying it?
The Blogger: [somewhat irritated] Never mind. You’re missing the point.
The Good Reader: “eWeeWee.” It is kind of fun to say, isn’t it? “eWeeWee. eWeeWee.”
The Blogger: Stop that! We’re talking about Your Mom.
The Good Reader: Let’s not do that. She isn’t here to defend herself.
The Blogger: [on the verge of blowing his top] Not THAT Your Mom! The other one! Er, the other ones! Or something.
The Good Reader: Golly, there must be at least, what, two or three billion of ’em? Out of our total population of about seven billion?
The Blogger: Okay, you need to cut that out right now. We’re trying to have a serious philosophical discussion here!
The Good Reader: Correction: Neither one of us is trying to have a serious philosophical discussion. I’m certainly not. And your idea of philosophy appears to be “making odd sounds with your mouth and then trying to justify them intellectually.”
The Blogger: [pauses for a moment, decides the best course of action is to ignore this]
Okay. So, one possible meaning of the expression “Your Mom” is a Crock Pot that very much needs to be washed. On account of the cheezy material, and whatnot.
The Good Reader: [rolling eyes] Okay. Sure. Go on.
The Blogger: And another is, a meteorite that left a Volkswagen-sized crater just a couple of miles outside the city of Flagstaff, Arizona.
The Good Reader: No. I’m sorry. Just no.
The Blogger: …and another possible meaning is, “what you ate for breakfast this morning, but with the strawberries removed.”
The Good Reader: What? Stop that! You’re just making up random nonsense.
The Blogger: [somewhat huffily] I am practicing philosophy at a level that you, perhaps, as a layperson, are not able to appreciate.
The Good Reader: Um. Okay, i’ve got another one. Your Mom can also mean, “the little flakes of dead skin that come off when you scratch your butt.”
The Blogger: Uh…hmmm. Maybe. What’s your justification for that definition?
The Good Reader: You’re impossible.
The Blogger: I’m a philosopher!
The Good Reader: Indeed.
As of the publication of this blog post, The Blogger has since come up with another 27 possible meanings for the expression “Your Mom”… and he doesn’t seem to be tiring of the subject. This may be worth following up at some point.
The unicorns do not appear to have returned.