Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Has mother become politically incorrect? The word mom now seems to have replaced mother throughout popular news articles.

Is there some reason besides political correctness, which until now has always seemed to have been connected to racism, no matter how tenuous the connection, or have I missed something?

share|improve this question
1  
I only call her "mother" when I simultaneously roll my eyes at something she said, as in "Oh, mother!" –  Robert Harvey Dec 21 '12 at 0:49
3  
I think OP has got it the wrong way around. It's not that mother has "fallen out of favour". It's that the popular press have reached the point where they no longer feel that mom (mum in the UK) sounds excessively "downmarket" or childish. –  FumbleFingers Dec 21 '12 at 1:13
1  
"... throughout popular news articles." Care to cite references? The whole question stands on this premise, so it can crumble as a NARQ unless the claim is substantiated. –  Kris Dec 21 '12 at 6:17
    
I do recall reading an article in the Times (long ago) about family life which managed to avoid using the words mother and father throughout (they were female parent and male parent) so there may be something in the notion. –  Brian Hooper Dec 21 '12 at 8:51
    
@FumbleFingers: ...even though it does sound silly! But then, the press... –  Cerberus Feb 3 '13 at 22:34
add comment

2 Answers

Here are the usage stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (number of instances per million words, by context):

           SPOKEN  FICTION  MAGAZINE NEWSPAPER ACADEMIC 

mother      281      939      287       253      134 
mom         125      204      102        59        6

And now the same stats sorted by year:

         1990–1994 1995–1999 2000–2004 2005–2009 2010–2012

mother      361       413       382       359       353 
mom          58        94       103       122       139

While we're at it, for a more complete picture, let's also check the Corpus of Historical American English:

enter image description here

(X axis: year, Y axis: incidences per million words)

What we can see is that mom has indeed been gaining ground, but it's nowhere near surpassing mother.

And if you think that mom is more politically correct than mother, you must be forgetting "your mom" jokes.

share|improve this answer
3  
Those are "Yo mama" jokes, tyvm. –  Robusto Dec 21 '12 at 1:35
1  
@Robusto Joe Momma? –  tchrist Dec 21 '12 at 2:06
    
So's yer mam on toast. –  Hugo Dec 21 '12 at 9:56
    
Very well, I'll try again with no attempt at humour. @Robusto: Not all "your mom" jokes are "yo mama" jokes. The latter are things like "Yo mama so old, her last name is Osaurus." The former include "That's what your mother said last night!"" and "Good job throwing the kid off the fence, genius." "Your mom's a genius!"". So it is not valid to correct RegDwighт's mention of "'your mom' jokes" to "yo mama" jokes. –  Rahul Narain Dec 23 '12 at 3:05
    
@RahulNarain: Full disclosure — I'm just having fun with my old buddy on EL&U. He didn't take it seriously, and neither did the rest of the regulars. Welcome to EL&U. When you can tell I'm joking, you might get to be a regular too. –  Robusto Dec 23 '12 at 4:05
show 1 more comment

Mother is not politically incorrect. Mom is just a shorter, friendlier term for the same person.

Consider the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They're political, but certainly not incorrect.

share|improve this answer
    
A kinder, gentler term. –  KitFox Dec 21 '12 at 0:54
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.