Did you know the Dozens was rooted in slavery?


"Sam never cracks a smile. "Yeah, Matt, dat mule so skinny till de women is usin' his rib bones fuh uh rub-board, and hangin' things out on his hock-bones tuh dry."" Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, page 52

So you don't know what the Dozens are?

Today it's called:

Diss, Burn, Flame, Cappin, Snap, Jokin, Yo Mama jokes, Diss Tracks, Cracking, Bagging, Hiking, Ribbing

True, it's insults but its more than that. Way more. It's training.

"The dozens is a game of verbal combat, played mostly by black males. It is designed to teach participants to maintain control and keep cool under adverse circumstances."

Ossie Guffy, in her autobiography, recounted her grandfather's lecture: He told her that the slaves played the dozens but that it wasn't for fun.

"They was playing to teach themselves and their sons how to stay alive," quoting her grandfather. "The whole idea was to learn to take whatever the master said to you without answering back or hitting him 'cause that was the way a slave had to be, so's he could go on living."

"Although not known for sure, the origin of the dozens leads back to the days of slavery before 1865. Field slaves used the game instead of physical assault on higher-status house slaves. Field slaves would be lashed or deprived of food if they harmed house servants, who were generally light-skinned because they had a white parent."

"Field slaves would vent, insulting the house servants' parents. If the insults worked, the vilification became even more lewd and vulgar. The name "dozens" might have derived from the notion that the opponent's mother was supposed to be one of dozens of women available to satisfy the sexual whims of her master."

Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson, in their book, "Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America," wrote that playing the dozens prepares black men "for socio- economic problems they may later face and facilitates their search for masculinity, pride, status, social competence and expressive sexuality."

Examples are:

Your mama's so FAT, after she got off the carousel, the horse limped for a week.

Your mama's so skinny, you could blindfold her with dental floss.


Mo'nique Imes and Sherry A. McGee, Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World. Atriz, 2004


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