"tot mom"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Dec 29 15:57:24 UTC 2008

At 10:08 AM -0500 12/29/08, Charles Doyle wrote:
>The newscaster/commentator Nancy Grace on CNN regularly refers to
>the mother (and principal suspect) in the disappearance and probable
>murder of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony in Florida as the "tot mom." The
>phrase also appears in the writing on the screen.
>Is that phrase new?  Is it patterned after "baby mama"?  A Google
>search brings up 27,000 instances, but many of those exemplify the
>unasked-for phrase "tot's mom"--and a great portion of the remainder
>specifically refer to the Anthony case.
I think this is one of those "deictic compounds" Pamela Downing
characterized in her 1977 Language article, where the meaning would
be clear to (and only to) those following the story.  (She cites
"pumpkin bus", referring to the school bus that was designated as the
one that would be stopping by the pumpkin patch on the way back from
a field trip, or something like that.) My favorite example is
"Ferrari Woman" in a headline in the S. F. Chronicle that turns out
to refer to the disposition of the effects of a woman whose will
stipulated that she be buried in her Ferrari.  "Tot mom" would thus
refer specifically to this particular woman for as long as the case
remains in the consciousness of those following the Caylee case.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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