1570s, "the common people," from French vulgarité and directly from Late Latin vulgaritas "the multitude," from vulgaris (see vulgar). Meaning "coarseness, crudeness" is recorded from 1774.
I have retain'd the word BREECHES, as they are known by no other name amongst country folk.--The change from vulgarity to refinement, in cities and towns, has introduced other appellations; there they are generally called SMALL CLOTHES, but some ladies of high rank and extreme delicacy call them INEXPRESSIBLES. [footnote in "Poems Miscellaneous and Humorous," by Edward Nairne, Canterbury, 1791]
Inexpressibles is the earliest recorded and thus seems to have begotten the trend: Unmentionables (1806); indispensibles (1820); ineffables (1823); unutterables (1826); innominables (1827); and inexplicables (1829) followed.
late 14c., "common, ordinary," from Latin vulgaris, volgaris "of or pertaining to the common people, common, vulgar, low, mean," from vulgus "the common people, multitude, crowd, throng," perhaps from a PIE root *wel- "to crowd, throng" (source also of Sanskrit vargah "division, group," Greek eilein "to press, throng," Middle Breton gwal'ch "abundance," Welsh gwala "sufficiency, enough") [not in Watkins]. Meaning "coarse, low, ill-bred" is first recorded 1640s, probably from earlier use (with reference to people) with meaning "belonging to the ordinary class" (1530). Chaucer uses peplish for "vulgar, common, plebeian" (late 14c.). Related: Vulgarly.
What we have added to human depravity is again a thoroughly Roman quality, perhaps even a Roman invention: vulgarity. That word means the mind of the herd, and specifically the herd in the city, the gutter, and the tavern. [Guy Davenport, "Wheel Ruts"]
For Vulgar Latin, see here.
1824; said to have been given as a toast by Sir William Curtis (1752-1829), a beloved lord mayor of London in the 1820s, who seems to have been a figure of fun to whom many mangled phrases were attributed. Among the toasts he is alleged to have given at public dinners were "The Female Ladies of London;" "The three C's—Cox, King, and Curtis;" and "The three R's—Reading, Writing, and Rithmetic."
It has been very much the fashion amongst a class of persons to attribute to Sir W. C. ... a vulgarity and ignorance of speech which are by no means consistent with his character and conduct. The worthy and hospitable baronet has a rapid mode of speech, but it is always correct ; and although some eccentricities are mixed up in his composition, he is highly honourable, and has been a very useful member of society, particularly to his London constituents. [The Mirror, Jan. 29, 1825]
After listing some examples, the article continues:
It is, however, very certain, that at a city festival some years ago, having indulged very freely, he fell asleep, when some wag, choosing to consider him dead, wrote his epitaph, which was found next morning pinned to the baronet's dress coat:—
"Here lies the great Curtis,
Of London, Lord May'r:
He's left this here world,
And gone to that there."
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]