grammar

Yo Momma: Regional Dialect Question

As you may know, my family hails from the Northeast, but I have lived in the South all my life. I always say I speak Southern and Yankee, but sometimes word choice flummoxes me.

How do you refer to your parents when speaking to someone else (someone who is not your sibling) about them? I often hear and read people–Southerners in particular–refer to their parents as “Mom” and “Dad” (or variations of those nouns) to this unrelated third party.

Example: Momma had to go to the doctor today.

This always leaves me wondering how they knew that my mother went to the doctor, and I didn’t get the news. They mean their mother went to the doctor, not mine. Why don’t they use the adjective “my”? After all, my mother and their mother are not the same person.

Since I was taught to say “my mother” or “my father,” I kind of assumed this might be a Southern speech pattern. But my husband, who is 100 percent Southern, does not do this. He will call them Mom and Dad when speaking to his sister, which makes sense. They share the same relationship to the people in question. On the other hand, my husband is not a grammar person, so I’m not sure I can go by his speech patterns alone. After all, he’s an engineer who thinks “indubidently” is a word. (Spoiler: he means indubitably.)

So I ask you…do you refer to your parents as Mom and Dad to unrelated people? Or do you use an adjective? Is this a regional phenomenon?

6 thoughts on “Yo Momma: Regional Dialect Question

  1. I say “my mom/my dad,” or “my mama/my daddy” unless I’m talking to my siblings or my husband (because they all know who I mean when I say “Mama” or “Daddy”). And I have never lived anywhere but in Georgia.

  2. Oh, what a great post, Jennifer! I *love* questions like these, and I especially love learning the answers. Gee, all my friends born & raised in the south all say “Mom/Dad.” (I am so glad I’m not the only one thrown off by that, because, like you, I wondered if they knew something about my mom that I didn’t) 😉 but, my SIL, who was born & raised in OH (to a Mennonite family) says “Mother & Daddy.”
    I always use pronouns with parent’s.
    Will be looking forward to your conclusion. 🙂

    1. I don’t know what to conclude! I’ve had responses that don’t fit my theory, so I must develop something else. I’m open to suggestions!

  3. In the South, what one called one’s parents was, in the past, a matter of generation and class. My husband, a pre-Boomer from Old Georgian aristocracy, called his parents “Mother and Daddy,” as did every well-brought-up Southerner of his age and class. I, a Boomer from Appalachian East Tennessee, called my parents “Mama and Daddy.” Our adult children call us “Mom and Dad.” I’m sure you have noticed that younger Southerners, particularly those who are Millennial and younger (who have never known a world without persistent mass-media), speak with much the same accents, cadences, and word choices as their similarly educated American peers.

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