Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||'mum' in British English|
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?
Just like in the US, in the UK people use a variety of words to address their mother, and as a colloquial word for 'mother'. The most usual of these is 'mum' ('mam' and 'mom' are other variations). There is a website called 'Mumsnet' . When people referred to the (late) Queen Mother as the "Queen Mum" -- and you could see this even in newspaper reports -- they were using 'mum' in exactly the same way, and signalling their affection for this popular figure, and a little bit of jokiness. They would not have addressed her as 'Mum', though.
I think some of the other uses you have heard were 'Maam', short for 'Madam'. This address form is used rather more in the US than in the UK. In the UK it is (I understand!) the address form used to the queen and other senior royals. It is also used in service situations, where the person serving wants to be very formal to a woman. It's used more often in service situations in the US, giving British people the impression that Americans are very formal.
Does this make sense to you in terms of what you have heard?
|Reply From:||Anthea Fraser Gupta click here to access email|