Mummy, Quoth She Firmly

After some gentle cajoling, I lent pieces of my cherished young adult fiction collection to a young person in his early twenties. I like this person well enough, but he has the unfortunate desire to appear all-knowing, without the discipline of fact-checking. So often, he ends up correcting people with unverified, second-hand knowledge, and gets into egotistical fights when someone disputes him. Mostly this is amusing, but sometimes – especially when he uses his habit to denigrate people – it becomes very irksome.

Anyway, I lent him these books – most of which are by British authors – and when he stopped by to return them, I happened to be speaking to my mother on the phone. After I finished the conversation, I saw Young Person smirking at me.

“You still call your mother Mumma!” he mocked. “Don’t you know only little children do that? Once you grow up, you’re supposed to call you mother *mum*. ‘Mummy’ sounds so babyish”.

This was, of course, not an opinion he’d ever trotted out before – indeed, he refers to his own mother as “mummy”, with an emphasis on the middle “m” – but Jacqueline Wilson appeared to have changed his opinion overnight.

“Darling,” I responded gently, “she is my mother, and I shall call her whatever I bloody well please. Buh-buy now”.

There is a moral to this story, and it is this: a little learning is a dangerous thing… and don’t lend your books to snotty young people who think they’re too smart for their little-boy pants.

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