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What Calling Someone “Mom” on the Internet Means

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While Kim Kardashian was busy “breaking the Internet” with her controversial photoshoot for Paper in November of 2014, New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde was teaching the world—or at least her Twitter and Tumblr followers—about a new slang use of the word mom.

These three little letters tweeted out by Lorde in response to Kardashian’s cover photo caused such confusion that the 18-year-old felt compelled to explain what she meant by mom in this particular context. On Tumblr, Lorde responded to a concerned fan who asked how could she call herself a feminist, but then judge Kardashian for being a mother and posing nude. Lorde writes: “i retweeted kim’s amazing cover and wrote ‘MOM’, which among the youthz is a compliment; it basically jokingly means ‘adopt me/be my second mom/i think of you as a mother figure you are so epic.’”

It’s clear that this use of mom is not just a part of Lorde’s idiolect from a fan’s tweet defending her: “I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming she’s saying, like ‘omg mom.’” From this tweet, it’s obvious that “omg mom” (followed by a smiley face with hearts in its eyes) is very different than just calling out the fact that someone is literally a mother. “The benefit of the doubt” implies that misinterpretation is a real possibility and that mom has more senses than just the most common meaning. Lorde’s explanation makes it clear that the stand-alone mom can be an expression of adulation or variations on the rhetorical question, “Will you be my mom?”

 

How long have people been asking other people to be their moms in this way? Here are examples from 2007 and 2010 where “being cool” warrants the evocation of mom:

 

It seems like Lorde’s use of mom in reference to admired famous people didn’t really become widespread until the last year or two. Evidence of this trend is relatively hard to find because people predominately use the word “mom” or the hashtag #mom to refer to their actual moms, or to friends’ moms who they want to be their moms (often because the mommed individual has just baked something delicious looking). It’s much more obvious that this particular use of mom is in play when teen girls tweet at childless celebrities like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Chloe Grace Mortez as detailed on Buzzfeed. That post is from last November, but the trend continues. Model and actress Ruby Rose recently noticed that her fans were calling her mom:

Yes, Ruby Rose. The Internet is a confusing place, but it’s comforting to know that when lighted by the glow of our devices, anyone we admire can be our mom. All we have to do is type the word.

35 Comments

  1. Jess -  August 25, 2016 - 10:29 am

    Alternate usage; when someone in close friend-group takes care of you, i.e. ‘mothers’ you. Usual response is ‘Thanks Mom!*’

    Also used as request for help: “Mom, it’s not working! What do I do?” or when in really dire straights, a prolonged “MOOOOOOOM” is equivalent, and effective.*

    *second alternative works best when not actually asking you biological mother–aka, don’t ask real moms this way. Not likely to end well.

    Have been using the term, without the involvement of the internet, since 2012 at least. Never heard of the internet version until now; it is just weird.

    Reply
  2. chris -  August 14, 2016 - 3:34 pm

    This piece begs the question be posed to the lovely lady, “Who’s your Daddy?’

    Reply
  3. daisy -  October 25, 2015 - 8:23 am

    I still don’t get what it means!!!!

    Reply
    • Jans -  May 27, 2016 - 12:54 am

      It means “you are so cool! Will you be my mom?”

      Reply
    • jalen -  August 15, 2016 - 10:40 am

      it means respect

      Reply
  4. Bharati -  May 18, 2015 - 7:49 pm

    Internet a bad pleas

    Reply
  5. noel -  May 14, 2015 - 11:33 am

    internet is a bad place

    Reply
  6. Elizabeth -  May 13, 2015 - 12:39 pm

    Screw the internet. I’d rather read!

    Reply
    • MariMoon -  August 12, 2016 - 6:08 pm

      True that! (^-^)

      Reply
  7. Dolfin Lover -  May 13, 2015 - 7:43 am

    It makes NO sense ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Reply
  8. Artemis Danforth -  May 7, 2015 - 5:31 am

    Who gives a flaming fart about any of these people or what they say or do?

    Reply
    • Darby -  May 7, 2015 - 2:49 pm

      Exactly!

      Reply
  9. coolio -  May 6, 2015 - 3:01 pm

    People call @youreracist on instagram “mom” because she’s a great person.

    Also

    follow @satan on instagram

    Reply
    • docplasma -  May 15, 2015 - 5:37 am

      Yes. Satan must be followed.

      Reply
  10. rachel -  May 6, 2015 - 8:03 am

    …:|

    Reply
  11. rachel -  May 6, 2015 - 8:03 am

    …….

    Reply
  12. Keith M Bender -  May 6, 2015 - 7:53 am

    The “Difinian” has been Khanfused wit da “Definiendum” !! At lightening speed the Kar .dashed across the lanes in front of me.My KarDio racing now at lightening speed too.

    Reply
    • Darby -  May 7, 2015 - 2:49 pm

      Haha nice spelling. Just kidding. ;)

      Reply
  13. IndyMom -  May 6, 2015 - 5:18 am

    Break the Internet? Wow! Kim sure has a high opinion of herself (er..her ass) doesn’t she? How much longer is the name “Kardashian” going to poison the air? They’re a bunch of no-talent, no-skill individuals who became famous because their mother married a former Olympic champion. The only thing they’re able to do to keep the cameras focused on them is to show their asses — literally. The Kardashians are the personification of what’s wrong with this country — we have too many stupid, shallow people. I like to think that a much more wise and, I hope, popular response for Lorde would have been to criticize Kardashian. SOMEone needs to!

    Reply
    • Chrys -  May 7, 2015 - 3:44 am

      Boy oh boy do I agree with you or what! I am in great fear of our culture becoming an idiocracy … more and more every day; and the Kardashian no talent freaks are just the beginning I’m afraid.

      Reply
    • Darby -  May 7, 2015 - 2:47 pm

      Oh my gosh, so true! I always wondered; Why are our people so shallow sometimes? Having all of these “famous” people. What did they do to become famous?! Star in a MOVIE?!?!?! SING?!?! Unacceptable! They do absolutely NOTHING to become famous!!! What the heck?!?!?! If you ask ME, all of these “famous” people should NOT be considered famous!!! Some people are such MORONS these days!!! I TOTALLY agree with you! YOU are a hero!!!

      Reply
    • echo -  May 8, 2015 - 7:45 am

      Somebody please unpollute our airwaves and put the Ka-trash-ians out on the curb.

      Reply
    • HohoKa -  May 8, 2015 - 10:12 pm

      Thankz IndyMom- voice of reason. Life is like a box of chocolates but you do not have to get fat on them. Stupid is as stupid does & these ning-nongs are making money out of others’ stupidity!

      Reply
    • cherryblossom -  September 1, 2016 - 6:18 pm

      Oh god. I so agree with you.

      Reply
  14. David -  May 5, 2015 - 9:08 pm

    Jk

    Reply
  15. David -  May 5, 2015 - 9:06 pm

    Like OMG IM THe bEst oF them aLl #MOM=|

    Reply
  16. anonomous random -  May 5, 2015 - 6:25 pm

    i don’t see how a mother is the coolest. I mean my mom helps with my emotional needs, but my dad seems more out going. Just going around asking people to be your parent is a little strange.. but ok internet, be your way ;-)

    Reply
  17. Brittany -  May 5, 2015 - 6:14 pm

    Umm… What’s the slang term

    Reply
    • MariMoon -  August 12, 2016 - 6:12 pm

      Mom..The slang term is mom.. it’s seriously in the title..

      Reply
  18. Anne Simpson -  May 5, 2015 - 3:21 pm

    Like OMG like this was grat… I like <3 Kime cuz like she's the best. #bestie #mom #<3 #Kim Idk but I have to go.. ttyl gtg ily

    Reply
    • anonomous random -  May 5, 2015 - 6:27 pm

      I like your grammar ;-) lol jk

      Reply
    • David -  May 5, 2015 - 9:08 pm

      Jk

      Reply
  19. cheyenne -  May 5, 2015 - 11:12 am

    WOW!!!! Your amazing KIM…!!!!…!!!!…….

    Reply
    • Darby -  May 7, 2015 - 2:51 pm

      lol an example of what our country should NOT be like

      Reply

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