The Corner

Culture

‘Mother’

The Pences, Mike and Karen, on the Fourth of July in Washington, 2019 (Tom Brenner / Reuters)

Vice President Mike Pence calls his wife, Karen, “Mother.” It has come to my attention that many people find this “weird” and “creepy.” Maybe I, as a Midwesterner, can lend a hand.

I’m not sure about now, but it used to be common in the Midwest for a husband to call his wife “Mother.” And for a wife to call her husband “Father.” Please be assured that Pence does not regard his wife as his mother. But she is the mother of their children, and that’s the point: It’s like a title.

Reagan called his wife “Mommy.” (Nancy, I mean. Not sure about Jane.) Reagan was from Illinois, remember. Comedians hooted about “Mommy.” Also, everyone did a Reagan imitation in those days — and even those of us who are not mimics could say, “Well . . . Mommy . . .” Those were two words with which the Gipper was closely associated.

A little Googling turns up this: “Stu Spencer, who managed most of Reagan’s gubernatorial and presidential campaigns, says: ‘She always called him “Ronnie.” He always called her “Mommy.”’” (Story here.)

I know this sounds weird and creepy to modern ears. But it does not to mine. Come to think of it, I knew a Mainer — far from a Midwesterner — who called his dear wife “Mother.” It was very tender. Spanish speakers freely say “Mami” and “Papi.” I could go on.

In any case, the Pences can call each other whatever the hell they want, as far as I’m concerned. I also say, Vive la différence — in speech, appellations, and many other things.

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