Twanglish Lesson: Mama

In the scholarly study of Twanglish, one will sometimes encounter words which appear to be no different than the corresponding words in English. They look the same, sounds the same, smell the same – well, you get the idea. So what makes them Twanglish? Simple: usage.

Today’s Twanglish Lesson is a perfect example. While it’s a word used by many cultures, even in many languages, it’s the way we use it down South that gives it that certain Twang. No pointing in beating you up with the abstract any longer, let’s drill into the specifics:

Mama -proper noun 1. The only accepted Twanglish sobriquet for one’s mother, especially in adulthood:

“Have you called your mama today? I sure wish I could call mine.” –Coach Paul Bear Bryant

2. A slang term for a beautiful young woman or potential conquest:

“That’s all right, mama. That’s all right for you.” -Elvis Presley

Alternate spellings: Momma, Mamma

In other regions, people grow out of calling their mothers “mama” and move on to more adult-friendly terms like the unimaginative “mother,” the lazy, but culturally approved “mom,” or the even lazier and decidedly Yankee “ma.” Even some in the South fall prey to these cultural pressures, yours truly being among them.  Real Southern Men, however, always call their mothers “Mama.”

That first quote above is a perfect example. They don’t get more real, more Southern or more manly than Coach Bryant. The quote comes from a famous commercial he did for South Central Bell. He was supposed to end the script with simply asking if we had called our mamas. Instead, having recently lost his own mother, he ad-libbed the last line. Such is the stuff of legend.

And if there’s any Southern icon bigger than The Bear, it’s The King. Fitting that the break-out hit for this quintessentially Southern singer featured the word mama so prominently – both in its more literal meaning and in the slang usage.

So what’s our big take-away from all this?

  1. We should refer to our mothers “Mama” no matter how old we are.
  2. We should call our Mama on the phone today.
  3. We should listen to some Elvis while we do it.
  4. That we should click over to Kickstarter and join RSMs Wayne Franklin and Kris Wheeler as they endeavor to complete their Elvis-themed documentary, Duke & The King. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. The power of the blog is too tempting.)

2 Responses to “Twanglish Lesson: Mama”

  1. I’m 41 (and 11/12ths) and I still call her Momma. Also still call my dad Daddy. Unless I’m saying “my mom” or “my dad” this or that.

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