The phrase 'mother of all bombs' has a long history in the Middle East

The US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in US history on Thursday, hitting an ISIS target in northeast Afghanistan.

US officials immediately gave the blast a whopper of a name: The “mother of all bombs,” as CNN reported.

The grandiose moniker is a reference to a phrase popularised by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who famously described the Gulf War as “the mother of all battles” in January 1991.

“The battle in which you are locked today is the mother of all battles,” Hussein said, using an Arabic expression that was translated into English by the Associated Press.

The punchy terminology quickly resonated in the US. Americans began co-opting the phrase to mean the greatest or most extreme in any given category, like “the mother of hurricanes” or “the mother of all traffic jams.” The construction “mother of all …” became so popular that the American Dialect Society named it 1991’s Word of the Year.

That US military officials invoked the nickname 26 years later is a reminder of the nation’s longstanding presence in Middle Eastern conflict.

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