here are various ways to address mom in Vietnamese, which are developed by the history, and custom factors.
The modern way to address mom:
“Mère” in French was affected by umlaut, and became “mẹ” the common pronounce to address mom in Vietnam today.
The old way to address mom:
Vietnamese language is greatly influenced by Chinese language. Many words, especially old words in Vietnamese is developed or an umlaut version of Chinese words such as:
· “Mẫu thân” (a formal way to address mom, mostly use in written language), is transliterated from the word 母親 in Chinese which is pronounced as “mǔqīn”.
· “Bu” which is used in Thái Bình province, “bầm” in Bắc Ninh province, and “u” in Hà Nam province. These words are still used today.
· “Mạ” which is used in Huế province, and “má” which is widely used in Southern Vietnam are both transliterated from the Chinese word 妈妈 (māma).
Addressing mom according to custom:
Mẹ = chị, mợ, thím
Previously, Vietnamese people have the common believe that calling a weak or premature baby by another name or ugly name will have the child to grow up healthier. Because they have an alternative name or an ugly name, the evils won’t touch them. The children are also required not to call their parents directly as mom or dad.
Today, people no longer believe in the custom but in some rural areas, people still have the habit of addressing mom and dad by the title of other closed relative such as “anh chị” (sibling), “cậu mợ” and “chú thím” (uncle and aunt).
Addressing mom according to their ages
Mẹ = bà, bà cụ
When one’s mom and dad became elderly citizens, they use “bà/bà cụ” and “ông/ông cụ” to address their mom and dad respectively. “Ông cụ”, “bà cụ” is also the way to address senior people in a family in general.
Have fun learning Vietnamese.