I've heard many people use the word mom both in workplace and on TV. These are a few examples:

  1. In Insanity (the home exercise program) the leader of the program calls one of the participants "mom."
  2. Another situation is in a workplace where people call their boss mom.

I wonder if calling someone "mom" means that the person is better than other people, a way to show their respect, or something else.

  • 4
    I don't know about "Insanity", but in a lot of British police/detective shows (e.g. 'Prime Suspect'), characters address a female superior officer as "Ma'am" - short for "Madam", but pronounced approximately "Mum". To an American ear, this can sound like "Mom". It's not.
    – MT_Head
    Sep 8, 2014 at 8:19
  • 1
    @MT_Head But an American will also say ma'am as well, that ear shouldn't hear it as mum I think; although calling someone at work mum doesn't make sense to me!
    – Neeku
    Sep 8, 2014 at 9:06
  • @MT_Head it's not Ma'am. It's mom (and sometimes mama.)
    – Anonymous
    Sep 8, 2014 at 9:22
  • Sometimes, it's used without irony, as well. That is, one acknowledges the subject is a mother and addresses her as "Mom" as per a title/appeal to authority. Example: "Mom, you know how well you treat your kids. Treat them a little better with product X."
    – SrJoven
    Sep 8, 2014 at 11:30
  • @Neeku - I should have specified that the British pronunciation of "ma'am" sounds very much like "mum"; the American pronunciation is more like "mam". In both cases, the phantom syllable indicated by the apostrophe has almost completely disappeared.
    – MT_Head
    Sep 8, 2014 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


There are three answers to this that I'm aware of...

One is that it's unintentional and occurs when someone is talking to someone who reminds them of their mother. This is usually down to the situation they're in, where they're talking to a woman who's caring for them.

The other is the intentional use of the word. In some regions (I can only talk for the UK), it's common to refer to older women as "mum" or "nan". It's an affectionate term without any massive significance, which is used quite frequently. In many ways, it's like calling someone "dear", without the patronising overtones.

The last one is that it's used sarcastically, to suggest to a woman that they're being overly solicitous. For instance, if my wife were to remind me to wear a coat when going outside, I may say "Yes, mum". And then roll my eyes. (As long as she can't see me)

  • 'without the patronising overtones'!? Sep 8, 2014 at 8:26
  • nods Calling a woman (or, I suppose anyone) "dear" has been considered patronising since the 80s. :) At least, that's what I'm told whenever I do it.
    – Dave M
    Sep 8, 2014 at 8:28
  • 'Calling somebody "mom" ' ... 'not "patronising" ' Sep 8, 2014 at 8:32
  • I can't speak for everywhere but I've heard it used quite a lot in the north of England, where it doesn't cause offence. It's used a little in Northern Ireland, too. I've not heard it used in London or the West Country. Do you know different?
    – Dave M
    Sep 8, 2014 at 8:36
  • 4
    @EdwinAshworth - Of course, what he meant to say was 'without the matronising overtones'.
    – Erik Kowal
    Sep 8, 2014 at 9:41

In the U.S., "mom," if you're not directing it toward your real mother is definitely a disparaging term. It is used to indicate that the person addressed has the qualities of a mother, that is they're cautious, protective and overweening. Whether this is true of mothers or not is not the point. The point is "get off my back. I'll do whatever the fuck I'll feel like doing."

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