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Subject: 'mum' in British English
Question: Hello,

I am a native American English speaker. I know the word ''mum'' is
used in British English as a familiar reference for mother; it is
even used to refer to the queen mother. but in watching hours of
British television I noticed that ''mum'' is also used to refer to
female figures of authority/rank.

How did it become acceptable for typical citizens to refer to the
queen mother as ''mum'', and is that related to its use with any
female in a position of authority? If unrelated, why is ''mum'' used
for any female authority figure?

Thank You.

Reply: They used to refer to Queen Elizabeth's mother as the "queen mum"

I think you may actually confusing two phonologically similar (to American ears) words:
"mum" equivalent to "mom" in American English
and
"ma'am" pronounced with an "ah" instead of an "æ" sound.

The two vowels are slightly different, the latter being a bit longer than the former.

(I'm not a native speaker of British English, but watch lots of British period dramas ;-) )
Reply From: Susan D Fischer      click here to access email
 
Date: 09-Sep-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: 'mum' in British English    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (10-Sep-2013)
  2. Re: 'mum' in British English    Steven Schaufele     (11-Sep-2013)
  3. Re: 'mum' in British English    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (17-Sep-2013)

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