Whether you are a mother yourself or you are lucky enough to still have one, now’s the time of year when we honour mothers and also, to look at the word ‘mother’. It comes from a very ancient source – the Sanskrit language. You could say Sanskrit is the mother of many languages. Their word for mother, ‘Ma’, is the root of the word ‘mother’ in English, German, Latin, Russian, Greek and many more tongues.
With the exception of Turkish and Maori, ‘mother’ in nearly all languages begins with M. “Mama” is usually the first sound a baby produces.
The word in English has given rise to many an expression. Here are some of them:
Mother Earth is a personification of nature, likening its life-giving and nurturing qualities to that of a human mother. It’s also known as Mother Nature. Mother Superior is the head of a convent or nunnery. Mother hen is a person who sees to the needs of others, often in a fussy or interfering way.
Mother lode is the principal vein of an ore or mineral, or a rich source of something, and mother-of-pearl is a smooth shiny substance lining the shell of an oyster or abalone. Mother tongue is the language a person has grown up speaking from early childhood.
Mother’s ruin is gin. Some of the poor in London in the 1800s forgot their woes by drinking cheap gin, neglecting their children. Mother ship is a large spacecraft from which smaller craft are launched, and every mother’s son is every man, without exception. A mummy’s boy is a man excessively influenced by his mother.
The cat’s mother is a rebuke to someone who uses ‘she’ instead of a woman’s name. “Who’s she? The cat’s mother?” and “Shall I be mother?” usually means “Shall I pour the tea?”
Happy Mother’s Day!