A ‘son of a gun‘ can simply refer to a person. Sometimes this phrase might describe a person who is behaving poorly.
The Origin Of ‘Son Of a Gun’
The origin of this phrase is not clear. However, there are theories that talk about where it may have come from. For example, this expression may originate from British Navy ships, where pregnant women onboard the ship gave birth near the broadside guns. Since these babies were born near the guns of the ship, they were ‘sons of guns,’ or something like that. In his book from 1867, The Sailor’s Word-Book, William Henry Smyth wrote concerning this phrase:
“An epithet conveying contempt in a slight degree, and originally applied to boys born afloat, when women were permitted to accompany their husbands at sea; one admiral declared he literally was thus cradled, under the breast of a gun-carriage.”
There’s also a story written by Legrand G. Capers in the American Medical Weekly, 1864. The story tells of a man who was shot through the scrotum and afterwards, the bullet traveled and lodged itself in a woman, who later became pregnant. However, in a later issue, an editor’s note implied this story was not to be taken seriously. So does the phrase ‘son of a gun’ come from this story? No, it does not because it’s found in print more than a century earlier!
According to The Phrase Finder, this expression is seen in the year 1708 in The British Apollo No. 43:
“You’re a Son of a Gun.”
- Eric, you old son of a gun! It sure was nice of you to invite me and my family out to eat, especially to such a fancy place.
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