The mother of all and the granddaddy of all are idioms that are very close in meaning, but with a subtle difference. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words, or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meanings of the idioms mother of all and granddaddy of all, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.
The mother of all is an idiom that means the greatest, the most important, the ultimate example of something. For instance, one may say that Katrina was the mother of all hurricanes, or Amazon is the mother of all online businesses. The idiom the mother of all does not necessarily mean that something is the first; it means it is the greatest or most important. The idiom the mother of all came into use in the 1990s when it was uttered by Saddam Hussein in a speech about the Gulf War, which he called the “mother of all battles.” For the most part, the phrase the mother of all is often used in a humorous manner.
The granddaddy of all is an idiom that means the most important, the ultimate examples, the most respected of something. For instance, one may say that Oxford University is the granddaddy of all academic institutions, or that Blossom Time was the granddaddy of all musical theater. Usually, the item referred to as the granddaddy of all of something is the first or at least the first well-known of a certain category. The expression the granddaddy of all came into use in the late 1800s.
“What this means is that we will be embarking on the mother of all strikes at all SAA and SAAT [SAA Technical] operations nationally, beginning on Friday morning November 15 at 4am,” the unions said in a joint statement. (The Times)
Joseph Zidle, a strategist with the Blackstone investment firm, has called the government — or “sovereign” — debt bubble the “mother of all bubbles.” (The Eurasia Review)
We are fortunate in the Brazos Valley to have so many community theaters: StageCenter, the granddaddy of all local theaters; The Theatre Company, purveyor of great musicals; Navasota Theatre Alliance, which does so much with its unusual stage (the audience sits on opposite sides); Troupe Over the Hill at Hilltop Lakes, which is far better than its location and budget should allow; and, the one I feel closest to, Brazos Valley TROUPE. (The Bryan-College Station Eagle)
Her wordless cartoon, “Passenger,” pays tribute to the noble flea and the great-granddaddy of all plagues, the bubonic. (The Detroit News)