In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

Being a Good Mom

The first thing to come out of an infant's mouth is "Ma-ma!" It's also one of the first things to enter it — the word ma, being synonymous worldwide with the "breast." Add the Indo–European suffix "ter," and you've got the "Breast-feeder", the forerunner of the Latin mater and our mother.

We elevated her stature with Mother Nature (c.1600) and Mother Earth (1580s), sentiments expressed in our Mother Tongue (late 14thC.) that fell under the protection of the Motherland (c.1711). She's a highly praised and sacred being of whom we are quite protective. Ever since Oedipus, we have harshly criticized those who defiled her — speaking ill of the motherfucker (overt c.1956, implied c.1928); though more recently she has been reduced to the basic, no-frills "Mother," known in some circles as just "mutha."

Motherhood, itself, is an endless series of thankless challenges. Mothers meet them day in and day out. But they are seldom celebrated or recognized for their efforts. And when it happens, it can come from the strangest of quarters. Saddam Hussein used the phrase, ummm al-ma' arik, "the mother of all battles," during the Gulf war, "mother" being an Arabic figure of speech for "major," or the "greatest." Copywriters pounced on the phrase and sooner than you could say "pepperoni," we had the mother of all pizzas.

She finally partially got her just dues. The mother of all days came much earlier on May 10, 1910 when we finally celebrated her formally — thanks to Anna Jarvis who proposed the name, Mother's Day as well as a ritual which entailed the wearing of a carnation in honor of one's mother–red if she were alive, white, if she had passed away. The custom went on to become an integral part of the day for the next forty years, making one wonder how FTD ever missed out on this one.

We celebrate many things that day, not only individual mothers, but also the generative principle, love, and nurturing. A popular song in 1900 was "Daddy, You've Been a Mother to me."

Mothers and mothering come in many forms. So to all you Mas, Moms, Mamas, Mammas, and Mommies everywhere, regardless of your sex — a happy mother's day, not just on that day, but every day.