Does anyone know what "Did Mama give me what for." mean? I think it might be a saying from Louisiana. I read this in a book. It was discussing how a mother would get upset when her daughter misbehaved.

  • Odd sentence really, especially since you marked it as a declarative one and not an interrogative one. – SovereignSun Jan 14 '18 at 6:20
  • I've only heard this as "give (someone) the what for.", though the what seems optional. See: give (someone) (the) what for. I don't think it can be a question directed at yourself though, because you would know the answer. – user3169 Jan 14 '18 at 6:55
  • Please find the exact quote and at least the name of the book. You should give plenty of context to your quote ideally you can link to the source on google books or similar. – James K Jan 14 '18 at 8:38

"to give someone what for" is an idiom.

It's not specifically from Louisiana, although people there might use it. The expression is commonly used here in the UK, and probably many other places too. It means to admonish/reprimand someone.

The "Did Mamma" part forms a rhetorical question used for dramatic effect, like when you say something such as "Oh boy, was she angry!"

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Give (someone) (the) what for

To punish, rebuke, scold, or berate someone thoroughly and intensely.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms (via idioms.thefreedictionary.com)


  • I told her a thousand times not to take the car without asking! Well, I'll give her what for when she gets home.
  • The boss is quick to give you the what for if you make even a minor mistake.


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