Synecdoche Moms

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Remember the Mom Jeans fauxmercial on Saturday Night Live?

In case you missed it, the clip shows a clutch of women wearing elastic-waisted blue jeans necessary for the woman who needs some give in her tummy and derriere.

The poochy jeans are “cut generously for today’s mom.”

The commercial pokes gentle fun at the “soccer mom” in her suburban milieu, flanked by kids and hubby.

From a framing and linguistic view, the word “mom” has become a synecdoche of women with children.

Mom now means “all moms.”

One writer put it this way:

“Teachers, coaches, pediatricians and strangers alike suddenly stop addressing you by your name” and start calling you Mom.

Motherhood is no longer a relationship with your children: it’s a lifestyle, Heather Havrilesky wrote recently in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

Like the SNL commercial, Havrilesky pokes softly at the terms of endearment (mom, mum, mommy) that have replaced the personal with the personality.

You can love being a mother, she says, but hate being addressed as “Mom” by someone who isn’t your child.

That’s why synecdoche is such a delicious word, because it means a part of something that’s used to signify the whole.

Funny thing: I get addressed as Mom when I take my dog, Romeo, to the veterinarian.

I’m Romeo’s mom.

This gives me cognitive dissonance—Romeo isn’t my son.

But the vet seems to think so.

Maybe it’s the family resemblance.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, framing, journalism, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Synecdoche Moms

  1. Russ L says:

    🙂 Thanks to you, “synecdoche” has become my word of the month! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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