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I Stopped Calling My Mother ‘Mommy’ Before I Was 10.

Discovering the Meaning of "Mommy": Why I Chose a New Name for My Mother

By Nathaniel BenjaminPublished 4 months ago 4 min read

Mom, mother, ‘Ma, so many variations but none came close to the one I used to call my mother; Mommy. It just fits, it was perfect! And I called her so for years.

Mommy, I’m hungry.

Mommy, please let me watch TV.

Mommy, I don’t want to bath this night.

Mommy, please don’t beat me.

It was beautiful name.

At a certain point in my childhood, I was obsessed with the meaning of words.

I had just seen Mr. Bones 2, and the fact that Mr. Bones and Hekule didn’t know what a door, or window was, (talk less of what they meant) baffled me. It struck me that I too have said many words and knew what they stood for but not what they meant.

Stay with me, I’m going to ask that you think like a child here (i.e. don’t think at all)… cos this really messed with me.

Anyways, I started pestering my dad for the meaning of any word.

“Nathaniel, hurry up let’s go to church!”

“Daddy, what is the meaning of ‘hurry up’? “

“Nathaniel, tie your shoe lace?”

“Daddy, what is the meaning of ‘shoe lace’?”

As you may have predicted, after a while, my dad was pissed. In retrospect I don’t think he found my curiosity cute at any point.

He gave me a dictionary and told me to stop asking people for the meaning of words, that they could be lying to me.

The dictionary became my best friend. Slept with it, woke up to it. After dinner was over, I’d be the last on the table because I’d been searching for words my parents were conversing with, some would even fly over my head because I wasting too much time looking for one, plus, my spelling wasn’t too good as an 8 year old.

One day I decided to look for the meaning of the words that were probably my first. ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’.

Looked up ‘Daddy’ first. Ok, checks out, nice!

Then I looked up ‘Mummy’, I was mortified.

It read:


/ˈmʌmi/ (pl. mummies) a body of a human or of an animal that has been preserved by treating it with special oils and wrapping it in cloth an Egyptian mummy.

Mind you, I didn’t know it was spelt M-O-M-M-Y. Not M-U-M-M-Y.

I was scared shitless.

There’s no way I’ve been calling the woman who brought me into this world a dead body. No way!

I cried my eyes out that evening. My dad got back from work and immediately after I greeted him, taken his shoes off and helped him hang his tie in his wardrobe, I asked him in an accusatory tone why he didn’t tell me the meaning of the word “mummy”.

He asked me what I saw in the dictionary. I told him.

He laughed so hard. My father’s laughter can be either very contagious or very annoying, depending on your mood. And I was not in a good mood, I just stood there staring up at him.

He explained to me the difference between the two words.

“This man is the very person that told me that I shouldn’t trust word of mouth over the dictionary, and now he’s chatting trash.” - I thought to you myself.

Na lie, I’m not buying it. The word ‘Mommy’ will never come out of my mouth again!!

“What will you now call her?” - He asked me, still laughing.

“I don’t know. Yet.“

In the weeks that followed, I tried different names. Experimenting. She was super into Hollywood at the time, so I tried ‘Mom’ but it sounded weird to me.

“She needs a two syllable name”

“She’s my mother fgs!”

Over time, I settled on Mama. It stuck. I had found the new perfect name.

Been calling her that ever since.

And me being the first child, my siblings just followed suit.

Even friends, neighbors, even my cousins call her Mama.

Thanks for reading, and always make sure you know the right spelling of a word before you do research on it! 😂

Interpretation can be very tricky, context, spelling (and of course, tone) is extremely important.

PS - If you didn’t see Mr. Bones 1-3 as a kid, you missed out on a lot!


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