• Tove Foss Ford

Mamma? Pappa? Mama? Papa? - Huh?

Question from the email today:

"Why do you spell Mama and Papa two different ways?"

Actually, I don't. As a fond reader of Victorian/Edwardian era literature, sometimes I forget to explain the conventions around "Mama" and "Mamma" (and of course, "Papa" and "Pappa".) It's mentioned rather obliquely in Eirdon, but not in any great detail.

So, if you've wondered if Tove has snapped her cap and couldn't decide how to spell these terms of affection, I'll explainify, as Dahrien would say.

I decided, since The Prophecy Series begins with Weaving Man, in what would be the rough equivalent of Earth's late Victorian era, that children of different social classes would be taught to refer to their parents by varying titles. This was done on Earth as well and is often seen in Victorian/Edwardian Era novels.

On Eirdon, a peasant or working class child would likely refer to his parents as "Ma" and "Pa". This is the way Hemmett addresses his natural parents, Zelia and Lucen. Both were the children of peasants, though Lucen became a soldier early on.

A middle class child, from a merchant, career military or tradesman's family, would call her parents "Mama" and "Papa". This is seen as more genteel than the homespun "Ma" and "Pa". On Eirdon, it could also represent a step upward on the social scale. Eiren's parents, though tenant farmers, are quite successful and prosperous. Mister Spaltz functions as the leader of the farmers on The Shadows, drawing a level of respect an average farmer would not. The Spaltz children use "Mama" and "Papa" to address their parents, while other children on the estate use "Ma" and "Pa".

As adults, Katrin, Borsen and Hemmett call Menders "Papa". As children, Katrin and Hemmett were taught to call him Menders and Borsen called him Uncle. After the final chapter of Weaving Man, Menders' "brood", now young adults, begin calling him "Papa", as an affectionate nickname - evidence of what is later referred to as their "middle class upbringing". This more casual nickname for the man they consider their father is proof that his plan to avoid raising Katrin as royal children were has succeeded. His foster daughter was not toughened and treated distantly by parents she might see once a day for a few minutes. His foster sons, Hemmett and Borsen, absorbed the "middle class upbringing" as well, because Menders treated them as he treated Katrin, with much affection and respect.

Katrin, Hemmett and Borsen often refer to Eiren as "Mama" when they're speaking to her, though Hemmett is also known to call her "Mother" in tender moments.


"Mamma" and "Pappa" are pronounced "mah-MAH" and "pah-PAH", and are used almost entirely by the royalty, nobility and the upper classes of Mordania and Artreya. It's an affected pronunciation (as it was during the Victorian and Edwardian eras on Earth.) People of a lower class using "Mamma" and "Pappa" would instantly be branded as "acting above their station".

Brumnel, from the Artreyan Royal Family, automatically uses "Mamma" and "Pappa" when speaking to his children about Katrin and himself. Lorein, being the daughter of a member of the nobility, does the same when speaking to her son, Lorsen. So, Katrin and Hemmett's children use upper-crust affectionate terms for their parents - much to Menders' amusement, after his careful determination to avoid that with the three children he considered his own.

So there it is. Part of world-building (which I had never even heard of until after I wrote Weaving Man, published it and started seeing it mentioned in the reviews!)

Keep the questions coming! They make me examine what I'm doing instinctively a little more closely!