Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who gave Mom her name?

May 7, 2013

Parents may give a name to their new baby, but it’s those babies who gave us the name “mom.” While the babbling of a little one may sound like nonsense, it actually represents a child’s first steps toward learning language. Those first sounds typically take the shape of a consonant followed by a vowel, with the short A sound being one of the easiest vowels to form. Babies will begin with the consonants they can make with their lips (M, B, P), followed by those made with their tongue (D, T, L, N). So, if Mama, Papa and Dada are naturally formed as part of an infant’s linguistic experimentation, why is it that it Mom gets her name specifically, rather than one of the other two? Perhaps it’s because M is the only consonant sound that can be made while nursing. At any rate, Mothers have some version of the M+vowel combination as a name in nearly every language: Mommy, Mama, Maman, Oma, Em, Mutti, Mare, Maty, etc.

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