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Is the use of the terms mummy and daddy to (informally) refer to one's parents particular to a specific socio-economic class or culture? How does this contrast with the terms mum/ mom, and dad?

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4 Answers

I can definitely personally attest to it being used by lots of working class families, middle class families, families who would be "old money" by a lot of people's standards but don't have titles, and aristocratic families where there's still ownership of the estate (as opposed to "well yeah, I'm a baroness, but it doesn't mean anything and I don't use it", though that would cover my partner, and she grew up with that use too).

There's definitely a regional element to it. My using those terms wasn't remarkable for a working class kid where I grew up, while my partner's using them did mark her as middle class where she was.

In my experience, it's the working class that have the strongest regional variation; middle class kids have a mummy throughout the UK and Ireland bar a few with a mum and a small number having a mother, while working class kids may have a mummy, but may have a ma, mam, mammy or mum. Moms seem to be more common than they were, suggesting a US influence.

The tendency to use the terms into adulthood seems to have a similar relation to both class and region; some places marking one as working class, some places as middle class, and some places giving nothing away.

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I do not think it belongs to a special socio-economical class but I have heard it from children not adults in different socio-econimical classes with only one exception who is :

Prince Charles

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My English-but-living-in-Canada aunts (in their 60s) still refer to their mother as "Mummy," always, without exception. Their elder brother (English-but-living-in-Edinburgh) called her Mother. –  JAM Feb 4 '13 at 20:24
    
So do you mean Prince Charles is not an exception? Ok! I can add your aunts to the black list. :)).. but seriously It was my experience after talking with some travelers from England and USA,Canada and Australia. I asked them and they said it is for children nowadays. I am innocent! :') –  user36922 Feb 4 '13 at 20:31
    
I wouldn't be surprised if today's youth and children do NOT go on calling their mother Mummy into their sixties. I think it might be a function of Prince Charles's and my aunts' generation. –  JAM Feb 4 '13 at 20:45
    
JAM, It can be right. –  user36922 Feb 4 '13 at 21:01
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Evidence from the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus shows the following:

Mom is something like 30 times more popular in American English than either mummy or mum, and dad is almost three times as popular as daddy.

In British English, mum is over three times as popular as mummy, with mom not being very popular at all. Dad is also found three times more often than daddy.

These are crude results. Only a closer analysis with a considerable amount of research could determine the context in which each is found, and the extent to which they might be class indicators.

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Overheard at Darlington station: "It's mam, not mum. We're not Americans here, you know." –  Brian Hooper Feb 4 '13 at 20:21
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In American English, mommy and daddy are generally reserved to children, while mom and dad are regularly used by adults. Since most literature is written by adults, the higher frequency of the adult version is not unexpected (except, of course, where the author is channelling a younger self), –  bib Feb 4 '13 at 20:22
    
@bib How about in the south? –  coleopterist Feb 4 '13 at 20:45
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@coleopterist While I am not an expert on Southern dialect, it may be slightly more common there, but still not prevalent (I checked with a Southern woman friend). There may be also be a slightly higher use of daddy by women, especially young women, but it seems to be very much in the minority. –  bib Feb 4 '13 at 20:56
    
Also, mother is not class-marked here. Well, except perhaps as a put-down, but that goes the other way. –  tchrist Feb 5 '13 at 12:30
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Kate Fox in Watching the English claims that using mummy as an adult is upper class while using it as a child is common to everyone.

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