son of a bitch
- a contemptible or thoroughly disagreeable person; scoundrel.
- a disagreeable matter; a chore.
- (used as an exclamation of impatience, irritation, astonishment, etc.)
Origin of son of a bitch
son of a bitch
- a worthless or contemptible person: used as an insult
- a humorous or affectionate term for a person, esp a mana lucky son of a bitch
1707 as a direct phrase, but implied much earlier, and Old Norse had bikkju-sonr. Abbreviated form SOB from 1918.
Abide þou þef malicious!
Biche-sone þou drawest amis
þou schalt abigge it ywis!
["Of Arthour & of Merlin," c.1330]
"Probably the most common American vulgarity from about the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth" [Rawson].
Our maid-of-all-work in that department [indecency] is son-of-a-bitch, which seems as pale and ineffectual to a Slav or a Latin as fudge does to us. There is simply no lift in it, no shock, no sis-boom-ah. The dumbest policeman in Palermo thinks of a dozen better ones between breakfast and the noon whistle. [H.L. Mencken, "The American Language," 4th ed., 1936, p.317-8]
Elsewhere, complaining of the tepidity of the American vocabulary of profanity, Mencken writes that the toned-down form son-of-a-gun "is so lacking in punch that the Italians among us have borrowed it as a satirical name for an American: la sanemagogna is what they call him, and by it they indicate their contempt for his backwardness in the art that is one of their great glories."
It was in 1934 also that the New York Daily News, with commendable frankness, in reporting a hearing in Washington at which Senator Huey P. Long featured, forsook the old-time dashes and abbreviations and printed the complete epithet "son of a bitch." [Stanley Walker, "City Editor," 1934]
son of a bitch
Also, SOB; son of a gun. A mean, disagreeable individual, as in He was regarded as the worst son of a bitch in the industry, or He ran out on her? What an SOB, or He's a real son of a gun when it comes to owing you money. The first of these terms, calling a man the son of a female dog, dates from the early 1300s and is considered vulgar enough to have given rise to the two variants, both euphemisms. The first variant, an abbreviation, dates from World War I. The second, first recorded in 1708, gave rise to the theory that it originally applied to baby boys born at sea (in the days when women accompanied their husbands on long voyages). The explanation seems unlikely, especially since presumably some of the babies were girls. It also once meant the illegitimate son of a soldier (or “gun”). More probably, however, son of a gun evolved simply as a euphemism for the first term and appealed because of its rhyme. Both it and son of a bitch are also put as interjections expressing surprise, amazement, disgust, or disappointment, as in Son of a bitch! I lost my ticket, or I'll be a son of a gun! That must be the governor.