Son of a gun

Son of a gun

Son of a gun is a slang term present in American and British English which can be used approvingly, disparagingly or to express surprise.


British English

In British naval slang this term refers to a child of questionable parentage conceived on the gun deck, hence 'son of a gun'. However, children born on board British naval vessels to enlisted men were referred to as a 'true son of a gun'. Admiral William Henry Smyth wrote in his 1867 book, the Sailor's Word-book:cite book | author =Admiral W.H. Smyth| coauthors = | title =The Sailor's Word-Book: The Classic Dictionary of Nautical Terms | year =2005 | editor = | pages =| chapter = | chapterurl = | publisher =Conway Maritime | location = London| id =ISBN 0-85177-972-7 | url = | format = | accessdate = 2006-06-02]

"Son of a gun, an epithet conveying contempt in a slight degree, and originally applied to boys born afloat, when women were permitted to accompany their husbands to sea; one admiral declared he literally was thus cradled, under the breast of a gun-carriage."

American English

In American folk idiom (American), this term has similar meaning to the British one, but was derived from military bureaucratic treatment of young enlisted men of uncertain familial background.

An urban legend sometimes states that a story reported in the October 7, 1864 "The American Medical Weekly" about a woman impregnated by a bullet that went through a soldier's scrotum and into her abdomen was the origin of the term "son of a gun." The story about the woman was a joke written by staff of the weekly; some people who read the weekly failed to realize that the story was a joke and reported it as true. [" [ Bullet Pregnancy] ." "Snopes". Last updated July 21, 2005.]


Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary and Webster's Dictionary both define 'son of a gun' term in American English as a euphemism for Son of a bitch. cite web | title=Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry | url= | accessdate=2006-06-02 ] cite web | title=Webster's Dictionary entry | url= | accessdate=2006-06-02 ]

Encarta Dictionary defines the term in a different way as someone "affectionately or kindly regarded". cite web | title=Encarta Dictionary entry | url= | accessdate=2006-06-02 ]

The term can also be used as an interjection expressing surprise, mild annoyance or disappointment.

The term in popular culture


*In The Documentary, the eleventh track of The Game's debut album, The Documentary, the third verse starts with the line: "Let me tell you why I do this s**t, I'm a son of a gun, Cause moms was a Hoover Crip".
*dntel featuring jenny lewisproduced a song called "roll on" which exclaimed "its just no fun, when your heart belongs to a son of a gun."
*Ragtime Cowboy Joe, the fight song of the University of Wyoming, contains the phrase "He's a high-falutin', rootin', tootin', son of a gun from old Wyoming."
*Sgt. Barry Sadler's song "One Son-of-a-Gun of a Gun" about the AR15.
*Roger Miller's song "Dang Me" has the line "My pappy was a pistol, I'm a son of a gun"
*Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" is introduced by her intoning the phrase "son of a gun". The song was later reworked in "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)" as the third single from Janet Jackson's tenth album, "All for You".
*The Vaselines wrote a song titled "Son of a Gun", which was later covered by Nirvana.
*The La's self titled debut album contains another song bearing the title "Son of a Gun".
* JX released a house track titled "Son of a Gun" on the dance music label Hooj Choons.
*The British Iron Maiden vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, named the first song of his first solo album ("Tattooed Millionaire") as "Son of a gun."
*KMFDM's release of "Xtort" had an eighth track named "Son of a Gun".
*"Son of a Gun" is the 3rd track on Dead or Alive's 1986 album Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.
*Gym Class Heroes - Girlfriend (Cupid's Chokehold) contains the line "If I had to choose her or the sun, I'd be one nocturnal son of a gun."
*"My name is St. Jimmy I'm a son of a gun" in Green Day's song "St. Jimmy" from "American Idiot" album.
*"Uptight, all night, I'm a son of a gun" in Green Day's song "Uptight" from "Nimrod" album.
*"Son Of A Gun" is the 9th track on Tommy Emmanuel's 2004 album "Endless Road".
*Charlie Daniels's song, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", contains the line "I told you once, you son of a gun, that I'm the best there's ever been." In the song, Johnny speaks this line to the Devil after defeating him at a fiddle match.
*Frank Zappa used this euphemism in his song Bow Tie Daddy: "Just have your fun, you old son of a gun,/ Then drive home in your Lincoln."
*in a recent critically acclaimed Indian movie "Oram po" ( Tamil language ), a character is named as "son of Gun". The character is an automechanic involved in the illegal autorickshaw (three wheelers) in India.
*The Poets and Pornstars song has a line which goes: "And I've something to say, Momma I'm a son of a gun".
*Blonde Redhead has a song called 23 with the repeated line "he was a son of a gun".
*Jimmy Buffett's song "Son of a Son of a Sailor" from the 1978 album of same name has the phrase in the chorus: "Son of a gun; load the last ton; One step ahead of the jailer".
*Recently used by Stefanie Heinzmann in her first single "My Man is a Mean Man": "He's a mean, mean one, son of a gun".
*A song in Keith Caputo´s new album "A Fondness for Hometown Scars" is called son of a gun.
*In Hank Williams's song "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" (that has been covered by numerous artists), the refrain ends with the phrase "Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou".
*In the Bone Thugs N' Harmony song "Ghetto Cowboy" Krayzie Bone Says: "Now when we get to this saloon, you don't worry, wait outside, Don't be stealin' nobody's damn horses, Stepped inside the bar, Layzie Kid you son of a gun" Layzie Bone later answers with "Ey man I'm glad you made it safely, now let's go have some fun,And this my partner Powder, he's a young gun."
And there is also a Demo band from sweden called Son of a Gun.


*In 1919, Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson directed and starred in a western movie titled "The Son-of-a-Gun". cite web|title=IMDB Entry on the 1919 movie|url=|accessdate=2006-06-02]
*In 1926, Paul Hurst directed the yet another Western titled "Son of a gun". cite web|title=IMDB Entry on the 1926 movie|url=|accessdate=2006-06-11]
*In a 2007 tamil movie "Orampo", which showcases illegal auto racing in Chennai city has a character, who calls himself "Son of Gun"


*In the TV series "Columbo", Lieutenant Columbo uses the phrase "I'll be the son of a gun" on several occasions to express (or pretend) Astonishment
*"MythBusters" had a 2005 episode titled Son of a Gun in which they tested the urban legend that an American Civil War-era child was conceived when a bullet was shot at a soldier, ricocheting off of his tibia, travelling through his scrotum, and puncturing a testicle, picked up some semen, and landed in the abdomen of a nearby woman, impregnating her. The myth was soundly busted, but was published in the post Civil War medical literature.
*In the series "Bewitched", Larry Tate calls Darrin Stevens a 'son of a gun' on numerous occasions, usually when expressing admiration for him (eg. for winning an account or being a ladies man).
*The, now retired, WWE professional wrestler Rick Flair used to describe himself as the "Kiss stealin', wheelin' dealin', jet flying, limousine riding, son of a gun"
*"Son of a gun" was the catch phrase of comedian and TV talk show host Joey Bishop.

Video games

*"The Son of a gun" is a character trait in the roguelike "DoomRL".
*"Sun of a Gun" is a sub-boss in the video game "Chrono Cross" that resembles a mechanical sun and uses its mechanical "rays" to fire bullets and other projectiles.
*In the soundtrack of "Yakuza" (Ryu Ga Gotoku), one of the tracks is entitled "son of a gun".


*STP has a series of car care products named "Son of a Gun"; stock car driver Richard Petty appears on the product labelling and corresponding TV commercials.

Notes and references

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • son of a gun — {n. phr.}, {slang} 1. A bad person; a person not liked. * /I don t like Charley; keep that son of a gun out of here./ Syn.: BAD ACTOR. 2. A mischievous rascal; a lively guy. Often used in a joking way. * /The farmer said he would catch the son of …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • son of a gun — {n. phr.}, {slang} 1. A bad person; a person not liked. * /I don t like Charley; keep that son of a gun out of here./ Syn.: BAD ACTOR. 2. A mischievous rascal; a lively guy. Often used in a joking way. * /The farmer said he would catch the son of …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • Son of a Gun — «Son of a Gun» Canción de The Vaselines EP Son of a Gun Publicación 1987 Género …   Wikipedia Español

  • son of a gun — n [singular] AmE spoken 1.) a man you like or admire used humorously ▪ Duke, you old son of a gun, how are you? 2.) a man that you are annoyed with ▪ Somebody go tell that son of a gun we re all waiting here. 3.) an object that is difficult to… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • son of a gun — noun count OLD FASHIONED a man whose behavior is surprising, usually in a way that you do not like son of a gun used for expressing surprise …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • son of a gun — • son of a gun • son of a bitch a person, used as an exclamation I wish that that son of a bitch would stop using my camera without asking me …   Idioms and examples

  • son of a gun — ► son of a gun (pl. sons of guns informal a jocular way of addressing or referring to someone. [ORIGIN: with reference to the guns carried on ships: said to have been applied originally to babies born at sea to women allowed to accompany their… …   English terms dictionary

  • son of a gun — n. Slang a euphemistic alteration of SON OF A BITCH: a much milder term, with overtones of indulgence, familiarity, etc. when used of a person …   English World dictionary

  • son of a gun — son′ of a gun′ n. pl. sons of guns. Slang. rogue; rascal • Etymology: 1700 …   From formal English to slang

  • son of a gun — 1. n. a despicable person, usually a male. (Euphemistic for son of a bitch.) □ If that son of a gun thinks he can boss me around like that, he’s got another think coming. □ Some son of a gun tried to sell me a used car with no engine. 2. n. old… …   Dictionary of American slang and colloquial expressions

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