Some children use the word "omm" to shame their siblings when they catch them doing something naughty:

"Omm, I'm telling Mother."

This is not the same word as "um": it is pronounced differently (in American English, it rhymes with "mom") and used differently (it means "Oh, now you've misbehaved" or some equivalent, and could be accompanied by the gesture of sliding one index finger down the other from knuckle to fingernail).

But I do not recall ever seeing the word in print, hearing it used in the movies or on television. Yet, it appears to be widely understood in different parts of the United States. Just by asking acquaintances, I have found that 'omm' is either used or understood in several parts of the US so there is the possibility that it is a borrowing from one of the many other languages brought here by immigrants.

Are there English-speaking countries or areas of the United States where the word is unfamiliar?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – MetaEd Aug 16 at 18:24
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The comments thread has clearly informed you that there are parts of the US and the UK where the term is unknown. It isn't unknown to the internet however.

Bet they were the goody two shoes ‘omm I’m telling miss’ types when they were at school. singletrackworld.com

and

I was just humming this to myself when my niece came in and said 'Omm, I'm telling! You're singing that song that goes, 'I've been... amiright.com

and

Omm! I'm telling on you! Reddit

While I can't pull out any regional information from these, none of the occurences I found, and they were all in online conversations, seemed to cause any consternation or confusion amongst others in the threads.

While this does not fully answer the question, I am hoping it serves to help keep it open while we wait for an omm-sayer to happen by.

In the meantime I found a thread on thestudentroom forum where they were discussing playground insults etc

In the English Midlands people seem to say ‘amm!’ while others say ‘umm!’ And one person claimed ‘ommvv’ while another went with ‘omer!’ All with exclamation marks and definitely part and parcel of the ‘I’m telling’ rather than a preceding hesitation. Because people in the thread are writing in imitation of how they used to say it the spellings tend to be very drawn out; ‘uuuuummmmmmm!’ Which is leaving me struggling with how to even interpret this one

if someone swore at my school it was 'ammmmmmmmmm meeerrsssyyyy' or something alike XD and someone would tell

And finally, with apologies to @AndyT for not picking it up earlier, pretty much the first hit in his linked search is to a Playgroundjungle thread where people from across the Anglo-sphere chip in with their local variations, including someone from Scotland, though I swear I never heard or did this when growing up here.

My fiancee just used some of my dad's posh coffee, I said "Ummmma, I'm telling on you" and she didn't understand why I said ummmma (nor do I tbh). She's from South Africa so I guess the custom isn't used over there. I'm from UK, grew up in Scotland where I must have picked up the umma variation. Both grew up in 1980s

The earliest date given in that thread is the 1960s though, presumably due to the age of the contributors most claims are for the 1980s.

when I was a Primary School kid in southern England in the 1960s, the words “Ummmm! I’m telling on you!” were in common usage. And yes, the intonation used when saying “Ummmm!” was ‘rising then falling’.

  • After being unable to find any online instances of the usage myself, I must congratulate you. – John Wayland Bales Aug 9 at 16:07
  • 1
    I didn't do well searching "Omm, I'm telling mother", but as soon as I dropped the 'mother' I started to get some results. – Spagirl Aug 9 at 16:09
  • "om I'm telling" got some uk hits: thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=511904 but those hits are rare – Mitch Aug 9 at 19:37
  • @Mitch I must have been reading that forum thread as you commented! – Spagirl Aug 9 at 20:56
  • No need to apologise. I posted a comment/link and left because I thought this question was basic and simple. Turns out it's actually much less common than I thought and has provoked quite a debate! Well done for a comprehensive answer. – AndyT Aug 10 at 11:18

This usage (pronounced "ommm") was very common in the English Midlands when I grew up in the 90s, but thinking about it I don't think I hear any kids use it today.

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