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  #1  
Old 09-29-2007, 04:38 AM
Muad'Dib Muad'Dib is offline
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Your mother wears army boots!

A long time ago that was a cliche'd insult, it would often be heard in Warner cartoons and the like.
I do not understand what was so insulting about it. Is there some pop culture reference from seventy years ago that I must know for it to make sense?
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  #2  
Old 09-29-2007, 04:53 AM
thirdname thirdname is offline
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I was always told it means she was a prostitute who serviced soldiers.
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  #3  
Old 09-29-2007, 04:54 AM
armedmonkey armedmonkey is online now
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It is old, and was an old cliche'. It mostly boils down to "your mother has to work" in a time when women in the work force were uncommon and only worked when they were dirt poor. It comes from the time between WWI and II, and could almost mean "your father is such a pussy that your *%@! mom is the only one that works!"

On preview, well...edit, it had nothing to do with prostitution. It became a cliche after Rosey the Riveter made a women in boots cool.

Last edited by armedmonkey; 09-29-2007 at 04:57 AM..
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  #4  
Old 09-29-2007, 04:58 AM
sturmhauke sturmhauke is offline
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I took it to mean "your mom's a lesbian".
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  #5  
Old 09-29-2007, 06:13 AM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
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Same here, I always understood it to mean "your mom's a big butch lesbo," since army boots are kind of a butch thing to wear.
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  #6  
Old 09-29-2007, 08:09 AM
Avarie537 Avarie537 is offline
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I always heard that it went waaaaaaaay back to Greco-Roman times, when the ladies who were "camp followers" would take any sort of payment they could get, up to and including the sturdy footwear issued by the army. Credit my high school Latin teacher for that one.
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  #7  
Old 09-29-2007, 08:35 AM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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I always took it to mean "your mother is more like a top sergeant than a mother" - which in the 40s meant big, loud, rude, crude, and perpetually pissed off.
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  #8  
Old 09-29-2007, 10:43 AM
Moirai Moirai is offline
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I thought it meant you were dirt poor, and your mom wore hand-me-down army boots...
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  #9  
Old 09-29-2007, 12:22 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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It means she was dirt poor and had to work. She was not the ideal stay at home June Cleaver.
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  #10  
Old 09-29-2007, 12:39 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riker1384
I was always told it means she was a prostitute who serviced soldiers.
Bingo.

The version I heard impied it was originally "wears a soldier's sandals", & was Roman in origin.
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  #11  
Old 09-29-2007, 12:42 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beware of Doug
I always took it to mean "your mother is more like a top sergeant than a mother" - which in the 40s meant big, loud, rude, crude, and perpetually pissed off.
And that's different from a mother how, again?
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  #12  
Old 09-29-2007, 12:42 PM
armedmonkey armedmonkey is online now
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Does anybody have any cites on this? I thought I knew the answer, but maybe I was wrong.
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  #13  
Old 09-29-2007, 12:54 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (1998) gives only "a derisive taunt" with no attempt at etymology, alas.
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  #14  
Old 09-29-2007, 01:08 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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In the early days of the Women's Army Corp, women who signed up were often considered sluts and/or predatory lesbians.

My own mother was a WAC, and very proud of her service, but even she told me many of the women were sluts and/or predatory lesbians. She forbade me from ever joining the Army because it was so corrupt and unseemly (I joined anyway - times change.)

Thing is though, WACs didn't often ever wear actual combat boots.
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  #15  
Old 09-29-2007, 01:19 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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You can be sure that the Warner brother cartoons, didn't use the term meaning mom was a prostitute.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 09-29-2007 at 01:19 PM..
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  #16  
Old 09-29-2007, 02:46 PM
sturmhauke sturmhauke is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harmonious Discord
You can be sure that the Warner brother cartoons, didn't use the term meaning mom was a prostitute.
I wouldn't be so sure about that. Artists have a long history of trying to slip things past censors.
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  #17  
Old 09-29-2007, 03:20 PM
mangeorge mangeorge is offline
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I always heard it as "combat" boots, and it wasn't all that insulting. Not fighting words, anyway.
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  #18  
Old 09-29-2007, 04:43 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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The way I heard it, it's not only implying your mother's a prostitute, she's also so cheap she steals the soldier's boots.
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  #19  
Old 09-29-2007, 04:44 PM
XaMcQ XaMcQ is offline
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I never had a clue what it meant as a kid, but later I reasoned that it was saying that you mother was a camp follower and you were a bastard, much like calling someone a 'son of a gun', which I've read had a similar connotation in the British navy.

I don't believe that it has much meaning at all to the majority of kids who are using it as an insult; they just know it is an insult of some kind, and a certain type of kid will toss it out there because pretending that they know what it means makes them feel cool.
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  #20  
Old 09-29-2007, 05:04 PM
armedmonkey armedmonkey is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XaMcQ
a 'son of a gun', which I've read had a similar connotation in the British navy.
Hey! That's one I am sure of. The sailors and the marines would socialize on the gundeck when they were in port. Sailors and marines being what they are, there were quite a few children conceived on the gundeck. Hence: "son of a gun".

Learned that one from Gunny on Mail Call.

Last edited by armedmonkey; 09-29-2007 at 05:05 PM.. Reason: I spels two gud
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  #21  
Old 09-29-2007, 05:42 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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A Monkey with a Gun writes:

> Hey! That's one I am sure of. The sailors and the marines would socialize on the
> gundeck when they were in port. Sailors and marines being what they are,
> there were quite a few children conceived on the gundeck. Hence: "son of a
> gun".
>
> Learned that one from Gunny on Mail Call.

Almost certainly not:

http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/sonofgun.asp

In general, etymologies given by sources with no training in etymology are quite likely to be wrong.
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  #22  
Old 09-29-2007, 05:56 PM
armedmonkey armedmonkey is online now
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Are you saying Gunnery Sergeant Ermey LIED to me!

That's TREASON! I know you can't believe everything you read, but it was on television.
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  #23  
Old 09-29-2007, 07:00 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Hey! WTF do you think this is, IMHO? Doesn't anyone have a cite? I can't believe there are 21 posts with no information yet. I'll be back.
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  #24  
Old 09-29-2007, 07:43 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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I had info, samclem.

Well, I had a cite.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
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  #25  
Old 09-29-2007, 08:10 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KneadToKnow
I had info, samclem.

Well, I had a cite.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Yeah. I didn't mean you. I meant not much useful info.

The earliest I can find for the specific taunt "Your mother wears combat boots" is a 1965 newspaper story. That would indicate it might have originated in the prevous 10 or so years.

The earliest I can find for "Your mother wears Army boots is 1963, indicating it was merely an offshoot of the insult.

"Combat boot" only appears as a term in and about 1941, WWII. So the fact that that specific taunt only shows up in and around the 1950's-1960's isn't strange.
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  #26  
Old 09-29-2007, 08:24 PM
elelle elelle is offline
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I always just thought it meant yo' mama was poor and clunky and wore boots, but, in thinking, the Army prostitute follower makes more sense in the Yo' Mama insult tradition.

So, did some basic searching, and nothing concrete. But, an interesting
aside
, from a nice report on "The Origin's of Lipstick":

Quote:
The Roman Empress Messalina (while her aged and doddering husband, the Emperor Claudius was away) once challenged the Guild to produce a”champion” in a contest to see who – true story, folks, one of my degrees in Ancient Roman History, and it reads just as saliciously in Latin – could “wearout” the most men in an evening. To the shock of Rome (and it took a LOT to shock Romans at this point) the Empress called for two couches (we wouldrecognize them more as beds or chaise lounges) to be brought and placed almost side by side (Messalina did not want any accusations of cheating) and with a witness, she and the prostitute Sylla there proceeded to the contest. (The historian Graves has the prostitute’s name as Sylla and has her crying “Her insides must be made of old Army boots!” at Messalina, but Graves, while a historian, often wrote apocryphally in some of his tales touching the RomanEmperors, noteably Claudius, though they were artfully weaved around actual events.) Messalina won. The contest was said to have lasted “the whole ofone day and night.
My bolding, and, again, it's an aside, but that article was interesting in it's presentation of an accepted prostitute class. Really seems to me that explaination will have a better historical footprint in the origin of the term, in light of Bosda's "wears Roman Sandal's" entry. I hope someone can find better info.
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  #27  
Old 09-29-2007, 08:47 PM
Moirai Moirai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
Hey! WTF do you think this is, IMHO? Doesn't anyone have a cite? I can't believe there are 21 posts with no information yet. I'll be back.
Quote:
The earliest I can find for the specific taunt "Your mother wears combat boots" is a 1965 newspaper story. That would indicate it might have originated in the previous 10 or so years.

The earliest I can find for "Your mother wears Army boots" is 1963, indicating it was merely an offshoot of the insult.

"Combat boot" only appears as a term in and about 1941, WWII. So the fact that that specific taunt only shows up in and around the 1950's-1960's isn't strange.
And that helped us with the meaning of the insult how?
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  #28  
Old 09-29-2007, 09:00 PM
elelle elelle is offline
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Searching around awhile under different google combos, and some tenuous leads, usually academic and not easily available to my limited ability.

So, this would be a great question for Cecil, or a select minion, to answer, requiring a few calls to them Ivory Tower experts. It has all the great elements for a SD column: Mamas, insults, sex workers, military, um, needs, fashionable footwear questions, and, most important, Warner Bros. cartoon reference. Really like to know the nitty gritty here.

Last edited by elelle; 09-29-2007 at 09:03 PM.. Reason: Added Warner Bros. cartoon ref, and figgered Cecil could have a Hotline to that one.
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  #29  
Old 09-29-2007, 09:28 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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Does anyone have a specific citation showing that it was used in a cartoon? (A *specific* citation, not "oh, I remember seeing sometime or other".) It appears that since it didn't appear in print before 1963, it probably arose in the 1950's or 1960's.) The interesting thing is that we have a slew of different meanings for it. It could mean that your mother is poor or a prostitute or a lesbian or a slut or crude. That's quite a range. Clearly it's an insult, but there doesn't seem to be any agreement on what it means. This is sounding more and more like "the whole nine yards." It's well known, but it only appeared in print in the 1960's, and there's a lot of contradictory stories as to its origin.
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  #30  
Old 09-29-2007, 09:48 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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I'm curious if the insult ever appeared anywhere prior to a Warner Brother's cartoon. If it did originate with Warner Brother's then Cecil or someone's probably going to have to track down a living relative who *might* remember what the original joke was, assuming the Warner Brother's guys didn't simply think it sounded funny.
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  #31  
Old 09-29-2007, 10:17 PM
elelle elelle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
I'm curious if the insult ever appeared anywhere prior to a Warner Brother's cartoon. If it did originate with Warner Brother's then Cecil or someone's probably going to have to track down a living relative who *might* remember what the original joke was, assuming the Warner Brother's guys didn't simply think it sounded funny.
Don't think at all it originated with Warner Bros writers, but that they were damn smart folks who worked with the time they lived in, much more constrained than current oeuvre, and got the creativity in when they could. What would be interesting is to go back to the living left of them and see how they so wonderfully gave us all the good juice we need despite the censorship of their time. I benefitted as a kid from their very sweet code talking. We have such enormous freedom now, in media, but creative folks in mid- last-century had to be very constrained. Their minds were not. Imagine that.
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  #32  
Old 09-29-2007, 10:50 PM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
The earliest I can find for the specific taunt "Your mother wears combat boots" is a 1965 newspaper story. That would indicate it might have originated in the prevous 10 or so years.
I also found a 1965 reference, in an academic journal, no less!

The article is Millicent Ayoub and Stephen Barnett, "Ritualized Verbal Insult in White High School Culture ," Journal of American Folklore, vol. 78, no. 310 (October 1965), pp. 337-344.

The authors studied "middle and upper class whites in a prosperous southwestern Ohio town," choosing the sophomore class at the local high school.

Here's what they said about "Mother-Sounds":
Quote:
These revile her by implying a masculine image or by indicting her for sexual promiscuity. Masculine image Mother-Sounds are the "Your mother wears combat boots" variety. These sounds are frequent among younger children (grades 5 to 8) and serve as entrance to sexual Mother-Sounds which require high school sophistication:

Your mother smokes corn silks.

Your mother uses Barbasol.

You mother smells like garlic salt.
The fact that the authors used "Your mother wears combat boots" as the example here suggests that the term was common enough for it to be a part of most readers' consciousness.
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  #33  
Old 09-29-2007, 10:56 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Argent Towers
Same here, I always understood it to mean "your mom's a big butch lesbo," since army boots are kind of a butch thing to wear.
That was always my understanding, too. Nothing about prostitution. Don't know if it predates Warner, though.
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  #34  
Old 09-29-2007, 11:13 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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levdrakon writes:

> I'm curious if the insult ever appeared anywhere prior to a Warner Brother's
> cartoon.

I still want to hear a citation of a specific Warner Brother's cartoon.
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  #35  
Old 09-30-2007, 12:02 AM
A.R. Cane A.R. Cane is offline
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*your mother wears army boots* is a US exclamatory c.p. -- at first, i.e. during WW2, very derisive, then jocularly derisive. An occ[asional] var[iant]: _your sister wears army shoes_, of which Norris M. Davidson, 1969, has written. 'I dimly remember having heard some nineteen or twenty years ago. It must be a catch phrase, as it makes no sense.' R[obert] C[laiborne], 1978, comments, 'like *your fadder's mustache*, (to which it was a frequent counter), usually spoken with a heavy Brooklyn accent, approximating *ya mudda weahs ahmy boots!*'; and A[nthony] B[rown], 1979, adds the variants _shoes_ for _boots_; _your mother drives a tank_ or _eats K rations_ or _works in a dime store_ or _ah, yer mother wears cotton drawers_ (the _ah_ may precede the other forms also). 'All derisive, of course; there are many other variants'.
From _A Dictionary of Catch Phrases, Second Edition_ (1985) by Eric Partridge & Paul Beale
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  #36  
Old 09-30-2007, 03:50 AM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner
I still want to hear a citation of a specific Warner Brother's cartoon.
I can't give a specific cite, but I have a vivid memory of Bugs Bunny saying it at least once or twice circa WWII.
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  #37  
Old 09-30-2007, 04:01 AM
A.R. Cane A.R. Cane is offline
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I ran across references to both Bugs and Daffy using the line. Daffy was supposed to have said it to Porky Pig in a skit where Daffy was playing the Pied Piper to Porky's Mayor of Hamelin, but the specific cite wasn't given.
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  #38  
Old 09-30-2007, 06:41 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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As far as I can figure out, that description doesn't match any Warner Brothers cartoon. There's a 1939 cartoon called "Pied Piper Porky" in which Porky Pig is the Pied Piper, but Daffy Duck isn't in it. There's a 1961 cartoon called "The Pied Piper of Guadalupe" which is even less like the cartoon you describe.

Does anyone have a specific citation for this phrase from a Warner Brothers cartoon? Even the slang dictionary definition quoted isn't really a citation. It was published in 1985, and it quotes someone in 1969 saying that he vaguely remembers it being said around 1949 or 1950. On Googling, I find various people claiming that it was said by Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, but no one gives an exact citation. Some of these people remember it being spoken with a Brooklyn accent.
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  #39  
Old 09-30-2007, 07:20 AM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner
On Googling, I find various people claiming that it was said by Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, but no one gives an exact citation. Some of these people remember it being spoken with a Brooklyn accent.
Yes, yes, so do I! "Ahhh, ya muddah wears ahmy boots." I remember it clearly. Bugs was not always Warner, isn't that right? There was Merry Melodies and Loony Tunes. Which one belonged to Warner and during which time period?
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  #40  
Old 09-30-2007, 09:31 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siam Sam
Yes, yes, so do I! "Ahhh, ya muddah wears ahmy boots." I remember it clearly. Bugs was not always Warner, isn't that right? There was Merry Melodies and Loony Tunes. Which one belonged to Warner and during which time period?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrie_Melodies
Quote:
Merrie Melodies is the name of a series of animated cartoons distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures between 1931 and 1969. The series was produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions until 1944, when Schlesinger sold his studio to the Warners. The newly renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. continued producing the series until 1968.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looney_Tunes
Quote:
Looney Tunes is a Warner Brothers animated cartoon series which ran in many movie theatres from 1930 to 1969. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series, and is both Warner Bros. Animation's first animated theatrical series and the second longest continuous animated series in any medium.
Note spelling.

Both were always associated with Warners, even if Warners didn't always own them outright.

The first cartoon with the character using the name Bugs Bunny was A Wild Hare in 1940. The two series were more or less interchangeable, but Bugs eventualy became associated with Merrie Melodies.

Last edited by Exapno Mapcase; 09-30-2007 at 09:34 AM..
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  #41  
Old 09-30-2007, 09:54 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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I've found a little more, after getting some sleep. It does indeed go back farther, I just didn't think to use "army shoes" instead of boots.

1950--"You can squelch your friends Baltimore Style with such remarks
as "Turn blue, please," slightly milder than "drop daid," or "aaah, your mother wears army shoes."

So it's certainly possible Buggs could have said some version of it in a cartoon from the late 1940's-early 1950's
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  #42  
Old 09-30-2007, 10:17 AM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
"Turn blue, please,"
I've heard better trash talk on 7th Heaven.
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  #43  
Old 09-30-2007, 10:29 AM
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I always took it to mean "Your family's so poor, even your mother wears Army surplus clothing." (Army surplus stores were a cheap source of clothing and especially footwear back in the day.)

There was a lot of Army surplus after WWII.

Last edited by Spoke; 09-30-2007 at 10:30 AM..
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  #44  
Old 09-30-2007, 12:15 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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My search wasn't just over Warner Brothers cartoons. I can't find any cartoon at all in which Daffy Duck was the Pied Piper or in which Porky Pig was the Mayor. I can't find any Pied Piper cartoons that are anywhere close to the one described. Does anyone know for sure of such a cartoon? samclem's latest reference was to a 1950 written reference in which the "army shoes" version was used. So, does anyone have a specific citation for a cartoon appearance of *any* version of this sentence? Yes, I *know* you think you remember it. So do a lot of us. We need a citation.
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  #45  
Old 09-30-2007, 03:20 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Didn't Granny Clampett wear army boots? I'm still voting for army boots as an emblem of poverty.
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  #46  
Old 09-30-2007, 04:05 PM
Gary T Gary T is online now
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I always perceived it as referring to a lack of class and femininity. No need to bring in prostitution, sluttiness, lesbianism, poverty, etc. A mother who exhibited such frumpiness and inelegance as to wear combat/army boots would be an embarassment to her children on that point alone.

Last edited by Gary T; 09-30-2007 at 04:06 PM..
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  #47  
Old 09-30-2007, 05:39 PM
Sternvogel Sternvogel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spoke-
Didn't Granny Clampett wear army boots?
<Nitpick>The Beverly Hillbillies matriarch was named Daisy Moses. Her daughter, Rose Ellen, married Jed Clampett and gave birth to Elly May. </nitpick>
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  #48  
Old 10-01-2007, 12:02 AM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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There's an ancient game called "The Dozens," where two young men trade insults about the other's mama. Some say it dates back to slavery. When one guy finally gets mad, the other one wins. "Your mudda weahs Ahmmy boods" is certainly a part of this tradition.

A more recent variation on the army boots jape is, "Your mama's boots have instructions written on the heels." It derives from the joke about being, "too stupid to pour piss out of a boot, with instructions written on the heel."
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  #49  
Old 10-01-2007, 07:10 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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In the TV show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and BJ try to rile the newly-arrived Charles Emerson Winchester by saying that "Your mother wears very expensive Army Boots." This would've been circa 1978, referring to a situation more than 25 years earlier. But that doesn't prove its existence then.

I heard the expression as a kid growing up in the 1960s, which doesn't predate your cites, but it was a commonplace among my parents, which indicates to me that it's at least a decade older, and I would expect it to date to the forties. No proof, though. I can't even recall a warner Borthers cartoon using it.

But I truly suspect the association with lesbians many people cite above is a fairly recent thing. Most people wouldn't think that upon hearing the phrase from the 40s to the 60s.
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  #50  
Old 10-01-2007, 09:04 AM
TubaDiva TubaDiva is offline
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Maybe in one of the "Private Snafu" WWII cartoons? They were racier than the usual Warner Brothers fare, they were made for soldiers.

I'm kicking this upstairs to see if it gets any interest . . . and now _I_ want to know exactly where this came from. I'm pretty sure I heard Bugs Bunny say this, just not sure where.
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