play the dozens

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play the dozens

To engage in an informal contest in which one trades insults with someone about each other and each other's family members, especially their mothers, typically in front of a group. The insults are not meant to be taken seriously. Exclusive to African-American communities. You want to play the dozens, son? We'll keep it light, unlike yo' mama, who's pushin' a ton!
See also: dozen, play
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

play the dozens

and shoot the dozens
tv. to trade insulting remarks concerning relatives with another person. (see also (dirty) dozens.) They’re out playing the dozens. There’s a bunch of kids out there messing around shooting the dozens.
See also: dozen, play
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Answering the insults of sociology is a waste of time, as absurd as playing the dozens with Lyndon Johnson and the liberal establishment.
In this view, the former practices work upon real social conditions, while the latter amount to playing the dozens. What black vernacular expression, literature, white sociology, or buying a Cadillac share, Carmichael implies, is a failure to engage US sociopolitical reality and, thus, to affect the terms of that reality.
The white journalist Welborn McIntyre, protagonist of the first section of the novel, tries to unravel Minifees's motives and explore his strange contention that by burning his Cadillac he is actually playing the dozens with Sunraider.
The difficulty of decoding a ritual with so many local permutations was magnified in the early twentieth century by the fact that the first researchers were cultural outsiders on several levels, being white, socioeconomically privileged, and male (which prevented recognition and representations of females playing the dozens).
A 1914 article in the Indianapolis Freeman linking playing the dozens to blackface minstrelsy suggests that the dozens is outdated.
He chooses to do this by playing the dozens with his friend.
"Their Eyes Were Watching God," often acclaimed as Hurston's masterpiece, is perhaps the richest beneficiary of her work as a folklorist: its evocation of "picking in the jook joint, playing the dozens, and petitioning root doctors" offers a compelling synthesis of ethnological reality and lively characterization and setting.
Blues rhythms, "lying," playing the dozens, signifying, among other Afro-American verbal manifestations, appear in this comedy as elements denoting a racial expression of energy and power.
For Harrison, when playing the dozens, Nommo creates power "beyond the natural frailty of the body" (Drama 39).
DeVeaux notes the importance of cultural themes such as signifying or playing the dozens in the musicians' interactions.
(9.) Playing the dozens, a black vernacular tradition, involves the exchange of explicit insults about one's adversary's parents, usually the mother.
What is known as talking about your mama or playing the dozens in one time and place is "snappin" or "dissin" in another day and place.
I would say that signifying and playing the dozens are the dominant tropes of black male discourse and culture.
See my discussion later in this essay of the male tropes of signifying and playing the dozens. in this discussion, I show that signifying is the technique of the black phallic trickster.