The Mother of All Blog Posts

by • May 08, 2014

mother's day, quote, idiom, writing, mom, GrammarlyThe mother of all holidays is coming up – Mother’s Day.

According to History.com, a woman named Anna Jarvis created the American version of the holiday in 1908, prompted by the passing of her own mother. It became an official holiday in 1914. Jarvis later denounced the commercialization of the holiday and tried to have it removed from the calendar!

Here are some fascinating facts about Mother’s Day:

  • More phones calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year, with a spike in traffic of as much as 37 percent.
  • According to CNN.com, Mother’s Day is big business. Approximately 65 percent of card sales are made five days prior to Mother’s Day and consumers spend more than $20 billion on the holiday.
  • We all value our mothers, but do you know what a mother’s work at home is really worth? According to Insure.com, in 2013 the average value of an at-home mother was more than $59,000 per year!

Sure, Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate all-things-mom. But, it is also cause for a linguistic celebration. There are a variety of popular idioms that incorporate the word “mother.” Have you heard any of the following?

Failure is the mother of success. 

You’d assume that this means failure breeds success, or that you can’t have success without failure. However, UsingEnglish.com translates the saying to “failure is often a stepping stone towards success.”

Similar idioms:

Diligence is the mother of good luck: This reminds me of the famous saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” which, according to LifeHacker.com, is attributed to Roman philosopher, Seneca.

Necessity is the mother of invention: According to GoodReads.com, this quote can be attributed to Plato.

Motherhood and apple pie.

This phrase is used to refer to something that is largely agreed upon by all. The idea is that most people approve of motherhood and we all like apple pie, right? Another meaning the phrase has taken on in later years is to refer to something that is quintessentially American.

MakingHeadsOrTailsOfIdioms.com provides interesting background on the origin of the phrase. Most people agree that the original saying came from soldiers at war telling reports what they miss most about home.

A face that only a mother could love.

This phrase doesn’t require much thought to understand. Let’s just say, I hope to never hear this one directed at me! If you need some help deciphering, UsingEnglish.com explains it here.

Shall I be mother?

This phrase is common to British and Australian English and is typically used in a humorous way to ask whether the speaker should serve food or drink. In today’s politically correct world, the phrase is arguably sexist, but generally no offense is intended. Find more on this phrase and other British gems on EffingPot.com.

Word to your mother.

Believe it or not, this slang phrase has origins in the Afrocentric movement of the 1980s and started as “word to the mother,” as a reference to Africa or “The Motherland.” The corrupted phrase, “word to your mother,” generally implies agreement with what was said just before. UrbanDictionary.com provides a pretty comprehensive overview.

In addition to idioms using the word “mother,” we also have a plethora of quotes about the dear women that brought us into this world. Psychology Today has a nice list including:

“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” – Jane Sellman

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” – Oprah Winfrey

“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill

As Mother’s Day approaches, remember the ways that the mothers in your life – and in your language – make your days richer. And don’t forget to buy a card!

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