Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes ~

Why I Can’t Say Mom

April 24th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 35 secs

Mum's the word.

Mum’s the word.

I can flex on a lot of things but I can’t say “Mom”. I can’t. Actually, I won’t.

Mom just seems so wrong to me that it sticks to my lips and comes out all wrong, with a very short “o” sound Americans like to laugh about.

The term “Mom” also feels weird in my mouth. Not because there ‘s anything wrong with mothers. Far from it! It’s just that it’s not a natural name for Aussies to say.

For “Mom” we say “Mum” in much the same way Brits do and for us it just feels right. It must be lodged deep in my Aussie psyche because, even if I wanted to, it would seem like I’m speaking in a fake accent.

If that’s completely ridiculous (and it is), try saying, “Mum” if you are American (while, I understand Canadians use either). You might feel like you are assuming an exaggerated voice, which is just how it feels the other way round Downunder.

This dialect and accent departures aren’t new. Nor is the discomfort of feeling your language is being swamped by another. If merely saying Mom is hard for another English speaker, consider how people in non-English speaking countries feel. It must be downright irritating to watch English dominate your own much loved mother tongue and sweep away terms and much loved words that you grew up fondly hearing.

The French government, for example, actively does its linguistic best to protect the French language from being turned into a French flavored English soup. But the pressure remains. I joked with Selina, our German former host daughter, that English is really a dialect of German gone feral. Though I suspect the connection wasn’t especially helpful. Like my gentle teasing about “Mutti”, which is German for “Mummy” (Or is that Mommy?”). It’s silly thinking your own way is the right way because “correct” all depends on where you happen to live.

That’s why “Mom” seems wrong in Australia and totally right in the US. Increasingly, variations in words, accents, and expressions that gradually developed are now being eroded by rapid transport and worldwide communication.

That also means I’m being terribly petty quibbling about Mum instead of Mom, I’m also struggling to come to terms with swift cultural changes that used to take decades or even centuries. All of those beautiful dialects that reside in English and so many other wonderful languages are being pressed together forcibly by Twitter, the Internet, TV, and the movies.

Yet, I frequently glaze over wondering what people are alluding to (especially on Twitter) when they say things like, “My Mom and I are red sox fans”. Okay, so they prefer red socks to blue, white, or green socks. That’s good, and why not?

The same goes for people’s political affiliations, which are made confusing by liberal meaning democrat (or “labor”) in Australia and republican meaning “liberal”. Confusing? Definitely. Besides which, it’s considered rude to pin your politics on your forehead Downunder, meaning your Mum (Mom?) and Dad will still love you, but everyone else will give you very strange looks.

Is there a point to this? Yes!  We are creatures of habit by nature and belonging gives us a much-needed sense of place. Homogenize life so that everywhere seems much the same and we lose our feeling of belonging. Clearly, we like our own ways of saying Mom or Mum, picking our favorite socks, and trumpeting our politics or not. It’s about being part of our local region and that’s a good thing. Especially when it’s balanced with acceptance, curiosity, and a jolly good laugh.

Those Funny Mother’s Day Gifts

Hands Up If You Want To Quit Motherhood

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  1. Kelli says:

    BTW, the Red Sox, and the White Sox are professional baseball teams in the US

  2. Kelli says:

    I use Mom & Mum interchangably and even on occasion I’ve called her Ma.. My Dad’s Mum is British – Born there, so he calls his Mum, well, Mum.. My Mom’s side is Scottish, but several generations everywhere on the family tree before it actually branches back across the pond.. So while I am 100% Canadian, because of the multiculturism that is so embrased here (unlike the US), you an expect anything…

    • Feegs says:

      That’s cool! Actually, given my parent’s heritage, I called them “Mama” and “Papa”, rather than Mum and Dad. But I still call my wife’s parents Mum & Dad. I imagine Canadian folk benefit from a real mix of English… Indigenous, and French!