The mother of all definitions

Get this. On a whim one day–-OK, I’m working on a project–I decide to look up the word “mother” in my trusty Living Webster dictionary. The good book offers several obvious definitions, such as:

Mother and child“The female who gives birth to a child.”

“A female parent.”

“Something that gives rise to, or exercises protective care over something else.” (A bit utilitarian for me, though I can see how the authors meant for this to apply to both the human and animal kingdoms.)


“The qualities characteristic of a mother.” (Now, doesn’t that say it all?)

But then the book offers this definition of mother. It’s in a separate section immediately below.

“A thick slimy substance composed of bacteria that gathers on the surface of fermenting liquids and produces fermentation, especially in changing wine or cider to vinegar.

I understand that science needs access to the language just like every other discipline. But you’d think that practitioners would use a little discretion, or at least common sense, when crafting words for their use. Indeed, that’s the key: create a new word. Or at a minimum, don’t use one that has such a meaning and a place in our lives. If they must use a word pertaining to humans, why not “boss”? I’m sure many people would swear their bosses are a “slimy substance.” Don’t pick on Mom.

And for all you English majors and students of the late William F. Buckley, Jr.: Yes, I know the word “mother” has foreign roots (German, according to my book). And although it’s pronounced the same whether used to talk about your parent or your petri dish, I imagine that the German root word was either spelled or pronounced differently. So perhaps the current definition doesn’t reflect changes over time.

Even so, you’d think someone-–perhaps at a famous winery–would step forward with a new term the scientists can use. And allow “mother” to retain its rightful place in our hearts.


Are you taking a vacation soon? Check out this column: “Packing for a vacation? Here are some suggestions.” Note the related column referenced there, as well as the others mentioned at the end.

If you found value in this post, could you do me a favor and share it with others? You may use any of the links below. Feel free to comment, as well. To contact me, send an email.

Tom Fuszard, content writer, blog writing, pr writing, web copy



Follow me on Twitter.
Follow my Facebook business page.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Image courtesy of Stock.Xchng.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Comment