It's the mother of all catchphrases.
A Syrian newspaper on Saturday used a banner headline to proclaim a high-stakes fight for the city of Aleppo in the country's 17-month-old uprising "the mother of all battles."
Iraqi president Saddam Hussein famously invoked the same phrase at the beginning of the Gulf War: "The battle in which you are locked today is the mother of all battles," he told the nation in January 1991, days before a deadline to pull out of Kuwait or face U.S. action. The Arabic translation recalls a seventh-century victory by an Arab army over the Sassanian Persians, seen as an ultimate battle.
But Saddam sent "mother of all" into the '90s lexicon, as politicians, TV hosts and headline writers used it as a superlative for everything from parades to Johnny Carson monologues.
Then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney mocked Iraqi's performance against U.S. forces in the Gulf War, declaring, "the mother of all battles has turned into the mother of all retreats." The media began to refer to Desert Storm commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's televised updates as "the mother of all briefings."
"The mother of all parades," ''the mother of all parties," ''mother of all games" followed. Johnny Carson opened his late-night show with a promise of "the mother of all monologues."
The phrase cropped up in wartime again months before the 2003 Iraq war, when the U.S. tested a 21,000-pound called Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) — the Mother of All Bombs.
And over the years:
— Mother of all was resurrected to describe 2008's massive financial meltdown and bank bailouts that followed.
"This is the mother of all bailouts, and we don't see the end in it yet," said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
— Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last year said he would consider running again in 2013, in "the mother of all elections."
— In 2010, a lawyer for environmentalists and injured workers seeking to sue BP over the Gulf oil spill predicted: "This will be the mother of all liability claims."
— A CBS sitcom in development a few years ago was to showcase the life of blogger and Twitter star Kelly Oxford. Produced by actress Jessica Alba, the show was titled, "The Mother of All Something."
Saddam did not invent the mother of all. The phrase appears in the King James version of the Bible to refer to both Jerusalem and Eve. And inventor-founding father Benjamin Franklin used it to raise gluttony to new levels, in an entry in Poor Richard's Almanac in 1755.
"A full belly," Franklin wrote, "is the mother of all evil."