"official routine or formula," especially "excessive bureaucratic rigmarole," 1736, in reference to the red tape formerly used in Great Britain (and the American colonies) for binding up legal and other official documents, which is mentioned from 1690s.
"training station for recruits," by 1941, U.S. Marines slang, said to be from boot (n.1) as slang for "recruit," which is attested by 1915 and supposedly dates from the Spanish-American War and is a synecdoche from boots "leggings worn by U.S. sailors."
1860s, "a good deal, a large amount;" by 1878 in financial speculation, originally in California publications; see deal (n.1). As an ironic expression, popular in American English from c. 1965, perhaps a translated Yiddishism (such as a groyser kunst).
"smoked herring" early 15c. (they turn red when cured), as opposed to white herring "fresh herring." Supposedly used by fugitives to put bloodhounds off their scent (1680s), hence metaphoric sense (1864) of "something used to divert attention from the basic issue;" earlier it simply meant "a false lead":
Though I have not the honour of being one of those sagacious country gentlemen, who have so long vociferated for the American war, who have so long run on the red-herring scent of American taxation before they found out there was no game on foot; (etc.) [Parliamentary speech dated March 20, 1782, reprinted in "Beauties of the British Senate," London, 1786]
"sensational chauvinism in the media," 1898, American English, from newspaper agitation for war with Spain; originally "publicity stunt use of colored ink" (1895) in reference to the popular Yellow Kid" character (his clothes were yellow) in Richard Outcault's comic strip "Shantytown" in the "New York World."
1893, American English, in the figurative sense "fear or doubt that reverses an intention to do something;" the presumed Italian original (avegh minga frecc i pee) is a Lombard proverb meaning "to have no money," but some of the earliest English usages refer to gamblers, so a connection is possible.
on the Great Seal of the United States of America, apparently an allusion to line 5 of Virgil's "Eclogue IV," in an 18c. edition: Magnus ab integro seclorum nascitur ordo "The great series of ages begins anew." The seal's designer, Charles Thomson, wrote that the words "signify the beginnings of the New American Era." (see Annuit Coeptis).
1707 as a direct phrase, but implied much earlier, and Old Norse had bikkju-sonr. Abbreviated form SOB from 1918; form sumbitch attested in writing by 1969.
Abide þou þef malicious!
Biche-sone þou drawest amis
þou schalt abigge it ywis!
["Of Arthour & of Merlin," c. 1330]
"Probably the most common American vulgarity from about the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth" [Rawson].
Our maid-of-all-work in that department [indecency] is son-of-a-bitch, which seems as pale and ineffectual to a Slav or a Latin as fudge does to us. There is simply no lift in it, no shock, no sis-boom-ah. The dumbest policeman in Palermo thinks of a dozen better ones between breakfast and the noon whistle. [H.L. Mencken, "The American Language," 4th ed., 1936, p.317-8]
Elsewhere, complaining of the tepidity of the American vocabulary of profanity, Mencken writes that the toned-down form son-of-a-gun "is so lacking in punch that the Italians among us have borrowed it as a satirical name for an American: la sanemagogna is what they call him, and by it they indicate their contempt for his backwardness in the art that is one of their great glories."
It was in 1934 also that the New York Daily News, with commendable frankness, in reporting a hearing in Washington at which Senator Huey P. Long featured, forsook the old-time dashes and abbreviations and printed the complete epithet "son of a bitch." [Stanley Walker, "City Editor," 1934]