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date: 15 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Taboo is used in many cultures to cement familial and other relationships, not only by observing taboos but by selectively breaking them. Probably the most common form of societally sanctioned taboo-breaking is within what anthropologists call joking relationships—close relationships in which people are expected to show their affinity by behaving to each other in mocking or insulting ways that would be unacceptable outside the relationship. Such relationships have been found among many Native American groups and throughout Africa, typically involving people who are joined by particular kinship or ceremonial links. In the African diaspora these traditions are maintained in less formal ways, most famously in the dozens, an African American tradition of insult play that most typically involves sexualized or otherwise taboo-skirting insults directed at a companion’s or acquaintance’s mother.

Keywords: joking relationship, insults, dozens, motherfucker, banter, kidding, teasing, hazing

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