Mum or Dad?

Article published on June 28, 2006
community published
Article published on June 28, 2006

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Traditionally, our homeland and native tongue have always been viewed as personifications of our parents. But exactly which parent symbolises what? In most countries it’s the mum who resembles the language. The French refer to their mother tongue as langue maternelle; the Germans talk about their Muttersprache, and the Spanish have a lengua maternal. It’s only the Polish who, with their expression jezyk ojczysty, refer to a father tongue. Generally speaking, Dads enjoy a larger slice of the action since they usually represent the homeland. The Dutch word Vaderland illustrates this nicely, as does the Czech expression Otcina. Similarly, the French word patriotisme is derived from the Latin word pater, meaning father. A Dutch native is sometimes referred to as a vaderlander. In any case, whilst the English stick to their neutral homeland, the Italians and the French have managed to unite both male and female with their respective terms madre patria and mère patrie.