Here’s something people may find amusing about Arabic.
Consider this request: “Mama, help me find the remote control.”
To almost anyone, it sounds like the child is asking the mom for assistance. And? You wouldn’t usually be wrong.
But, in this case, it’s the exact opposite. The mother’s actually talking to her child, using “mama” as an alternative to the kid’s name or any other call for attention.
For a reason I have yet to discover, it’s common for moms to call their kids “mom” or “mama” and a dad to call his kid, “baba”. (Gender of the child doesn’t matter). Even aunts, uncles and grandparents do the same thing—and it’s very much a sign of affection.
“Hi Amo, how are you? I’ve missed you!” An uncle living in a different time zone would tell a niece or nephew during a phone call.
“Yii, Sitto, why haven’t you eaten anything?” A concerned grandmother would say to her over-stuffed grandchild.
It’s so common that you never really think about it until it randomly dawns on you that you regularly respond to your mom when she calls you “mama”.
But it does make you wonder…are there other languages out there that do the same thing? And which ones are they?