Follow TV Tropes

Parental Title Characterization

Go To

A characters use of certain titles to refer to their parents shows their relationship to them.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on May 17th 2017 at 8:09:47 PM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on Sep 24th 2017 at 11:21:04 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

In fiction, how you refer to your parents is a sign of your relationship with them. "Mom"/"Mum" and "Dad" (or the languages counterparts) are the most neutral and "normal" terms that most characters use. Other titles have more meaning behind them.

In some cases, switching from "Mommy"/"Mummy" and "Daddy" and "Mom"/"Mum" and "Dad" is just a matter of a younger user wanting to be seen as a "big kid." A Spoiled Brat or Daddy's Girl, especially if she is rich, will often refer to her father as "Daddy" even as most of her peers outgrow the title. In contrast, a full-grown man calling his mother "Mommy" or "Mummy" is seen as goofy or weird, signifying he is either a Momma's Boy, a Manchild, or that his mother is of the My Beloved Smother type.

"Mother" and "Father" used to be perfectly neutral terms but have become formal and old-fashioned over time. It can signify that the characters are uptight and formal, they're royalty, or that their parents are distant. Using "Sir", "M'am", and other extremely formal titles has even more weight to it then referring to them as just "Mother" and "Father". It's almost always to signify that the characters parents as abusive, aloof and unaffectionate, or are militaristic.

There's some Values Dissonance to this trope. For example, using "Mama" and "Papa" as an adult can be seen as childish in one area but perfectly normal and affectionate in another.

Compare to Calling Parents by Their Name, which is used when characters call their parents by their given name and usually signifies either lax parents or bad familial relationships. See also Japanese Sibling Terminology and Japanese Pronouns, which are just as personal for the user. Related to You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious and You're Not My Father.


Anime & Manga

  • In Digimon Adventure 02, thirteen-year-old Mimi is known to lead a comfortable life. When being picked up from a party in one episode, she calls her father "Papa" in the original version and "Daddy" in the dub. It may have had more to do with Gratuitous English in one case, and matching lip flap in the other. In Digimon Adventure, she was ten, but called her father "Dad."
  • Naruto:
    • Boruto usually calls his father Naruto "oyaji" (old man) to emphasis his feelings of neglect by his father. When he's happy with his dad, he calls him the very affectionate "tou-chan".
    • Sarada does not know her father Sasuke well due to him being on a mission since she was a toddler, however she refers to him with the affectionate "Papa" (changed to "Dad" in the English dub).

Comic Books

Fan Works

  • The default fanon in Frozen fanworks is to have Anna and Elsa refer to their parents as "Mama" and "Papa" around each other but "Mother" and "Father" in public. The only time in the film they referred to them by title was when they were young children, however according to A Frozen Heart, Anna refers to her parents as such even at eighteen. It's rare for grown women to refer to their parents by such titles however fans use it to symbolize how repressed the two were growing up.

Film - Animation

  • Rebellious Princess Merida from Brave refers to her mother Elinor as either "Mum" or "Mother". She regresses to "Mummy" in the climax when she begins crying due to believing her mother is permanently a bear.
  • Frozen: The sole time Elsa refers to her parents by title is she cries for help. She uses the affectionate and childish "Mama" and "Papa". This fits her young age (eight) in the scene but also shows she has a loving relationship with her parents. Over the course of her childhood she withdraws from her family due to fearing she might hurt them.
  • In Shrek 2, the fully grown Prince Charming calls his mother, the Fairy Godmother, "Mummy," and it isn't lost on Fiona. As it happens, Fairy Godmother is controlling Prince Charming.

Film - Live Action

  • At no point does Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens refer to Han Solo as his "father", showing just how much Ren wants to cut himself off from who he once was.
  • The Santa Clause: Seven-year-old Charlie addresses his parents as "Mom" and "Dad" throughout. Scott and Laura's divorce probably made Charlie feel like he had to grow up a bit more quickly, but he still loves them.
  • In Bye Bye Birdie the lead begins referring to her parents by their given names because it's the "modern thing" to do. When she freaks out about winning a contest to kiss her favorite singer, she switches to "Mother" and then "Mommy".
  • In Hook, The titular character tries to get Peter Pan's son, Jack, on side by being more present and supportive than Peter himself. However, Hook doesn't really care for Jack, so despite being sore at Peter, Jack only ever addresses Hook as "Captain."
  • A weird thing happens with Violet Beaureguarde on film:
    • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, both of her parents are present. She addresses her mom as "mother." Judging from the fact that Mrs. Beaureguarde's only line is a First Name Ultimatum directed at Violet, we can assume that she takes a strict line with her daughter. Violet calls her father "Dad." He indulges her competitiveness, and they appear to be much closer.
    • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Violet's dad is nowhere to be found. Violet probably calls her mom "Mother" here because her mother is her coach. They seem to take their relationship as seriously as everything else, and to them, competition is everything else.
  • In Little Annie Rooney, Annie calls her father "daddy dear" when she tries to sucker up to him while avoiding a punishment.


  • Taken one step further in a flashback to Arnold Rimmer's childhood in Red Dwarf, in which his father - who is also his professor at college - admonishes Arnold for calling him "father" and insists on "Sir" or "Professor Rimmer".
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, it's part of standard etiquette among nobles to address their parents "My lord father" or "My lady mother" in public situations, but Tyrion Lannister nearly always calls his father that, because they hate each other.
  • Artemis Fowl: When Artemis and his father are reunited after several years, Artemis slips into this. Fowl Sr. shakes his head, remembering that he was indeed that stern and demanding, but has now reverted to the personality his wife was attracted to (that he no longer has to deal with The Mafiya probably helps).
  • In Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs, there's some discussion about the difference between being a father (merely siring a child) and being a daddy (committing to and nurturing a relationship with said child). Sometime in Mattie's early life, his parents divorced, note  so he never got to know his father.
  • After he accidentally causes her and her mother to get burned, Billie Jo in Out of the Dust stops callng her dad "Daddy". She switches to "my father" or "father". After they reconcile, she goes back to "Daddy".
  • Xenofictional Literature often has animals refer to their parents as "mother" and (assuming they're present) "father" in order to emphasis their otherness:
    • Most adult cats in Warrior Cats refer to their parents by name. In the rare occasion they use a title, it's usually "Mother" or "Father".
    • Dogs in Survivor Dogs refer to their parents are "Mother-Dog" and "Sire-Dog".
    • Wolves in Firstborn call their parents "mother" and "father".
    • Squirrel in A Dog's Life notes that her mother's name was "Stream", but that to her and her brother she was just "Mother".
    • Bambi from Bambi because he's an animal. In the Disney adaptation he is royalty (in the book all bucks are called "princes"), which also gives him a reason to use it.

Live-Action TV

  • M*A*S*H: It is established that stuffy Charles calls his parents Mother and Father, while most other characters call their parents Mom and Dad. Lampshaded in one episode where Charles is trying to console Hawkeye, who just learned that his father is in the hospital and is trying to contact home for news.
    Charles:: While I had a father, you had a dad.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
    • Hilary calls Philip "Daddy" when she wants money;
    • Carlton calls Vivian and Philip "Mom" and "Dad" respectively, except for that one time they caught him stripping, at which point and alarmed Carlton blurts out "Mommy!"
    • Philip is "Daddy" to Ashley, who is Philip's baby girl and has him wrapped around her finger.
    • Nicky can't be older than seven by the end of the show's run, but he's very bright and addresses Philip as "Dad."
    • Will's father Lou, who walked out on Will and Vy when will was three, comes to the Banks residence to visit Will. Will is so happy to have his father back in his life that he calls him "Pop" and "Daddy-o." When Lou announces he's leaving Will again, a crestfallen Will addresses his father for the last time as "Lou."



  • The intro to "What Is This Feeling?" in Wicked establishes the differences between the two main characters by how they address their parents. The spoiled Daddy's Girl Glinda refers to her parents by the cutesy-sounding "dearest, darlingest Momsie and Popsicle". On the other hand, Elphaba (who is more serious and has a distant relationship with her father) refers to her father as "my dear Father". Subverted in the original book as Elphaba refers to her dad by the slightly-childish and affectionate "Papa".

Video Games

  • Blazblue Central Fiction: When Kokonoe finally meets her mother, Nine, she addresses her with "haha-sama", "haha" being the formal word for "mother" and "-sama" being a honorific that signifies deep respect.
  • Pokémon:
    • Gladion from Pokémon Sun and Moon refers to his mother as both her first name and as "mother", to show their distant relationship. His sister Lillie uses "Mother" as well. Their family seems to be wealthy, so that might also be a reason for the title (ignoring the abusive mother aspect).
    • As with all protagonists, Eilio/Selene from Sun and Moon refer to their mother as "Mom". In a throwaway line, they refer to their father as "father". This implies a distant relationship, made more noticeable by the fact Mom seems to have moved to Alola alone, however it's never given any further specification.

Visual Novels

Western Animation

  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Edd always refers to his parents as Mother and Father. They also refer to themselves this way in the sticky-notes they leave along the house.
  • Pizzazz from Jem refers to her father as "daddy" despite his general apathy towards her. It signifies that she is a rich, immature Spoiled Brat but at the same time shows that Pizzazz craves her father's attention and cares for him.
  • The titular character of Little Bill is five years old. He calls his mother "Mama," but admires and wants to emulate his father enough to call him "Dad." Little Bill's siblings, eight-year-old Bobby and ten-year-old April, call their parents "Mom" and "Dad." Everyone thinks so highly of their great-grandmother that they call her Alice the Great.
  • In The Cleveland Show, Cleveland periodically berates Cleveland Jr. because, among other things, he still calls Cleveland "Daddy" at fourteen years old.
  • There's a boy in The Proud Family named Michael. He can't be much younger than fourteen-year-old schoolmate Penny, and he calls his father "Daddy." The problem is that his father is the school's P.E. teacher, who would rather Michael call him "Coach" in public.
  • Raven from Teen Titans at first calls her mom by her name when they meet. She switches to "mother" a sentence later. This shows her detached, emotionally repressed upbringing.
  • KO from OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes calls his mother "Mommy". This helps accentuate his youth as well as make his age all the more vaguer (he's explictly six to eleven years old).
  • Utilised iconically in The Simpsons. Bart regularly calls his father, Homer, by first name or other more derogatory titles to display his cocky impudence. In the original shorts, Lisa did similar to show her similar bratty characterisation, though when she diverged into a more precocious, well behaved child, she started referring to him solely as "Dad". As shown in the flashback episode "Lisa's First Word", both kids referred to Homer by first name even as infants, building up to the heartwarming final scene where Maggie calls him "Daddy", though out of earshot.

Real Life

  • When TLC's titular Little Couple, Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein, adopted their son Will from China, they encouraged Will to call Bill "Baba" Mandarin for "Daddy." After Bill and Jennifer adopted daughter Lily from India, the children were encouraged to simply call Bill "Daddy." This was probably done to make it easier on the kids, as Bill had become a father to children from two different cultures by this point.
  • Fred Rogers consistently referred to his parents as "Mother" and "Dad," implying that while Fred and his father had a more playful relationship, mom was the disciplinarian of the household.
  • Even her closest blood relatives have to address the Queen as "Your Majesty" in formal situations. Apparently official protocol dictates that when first meeting Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in the morning, even her immediate family have to call them "Your Majesty" or "Your Royal Highness" on the first encounter of the day. It is believed the current monarch is more informal than that to her children and grandchildren. Apparently.

Feedback: 23 replies

May 17th 2017 at 8:13:58 PM

I took the examples and part of the description from a discarded YKTTW. There wasn't really a reason for why it was discarded

May 17th 2017 at 11:37:25 PM

^ Some examples in the comment section should be added too

May 17th 2017 at 11:40:56 PM

Maybe the title could be a bit shorter?

May 18th 2017 at 8:08:47 AM

Usage of "mother" and "father" is also seen as old-fashioned nowadays.

Aug 16th 2017 at 11:10:20 PM

Keeping in mind these are additionial tropey usages of parental/grandparental address. They also are not universal usage.

There's also: "Ma"

  • The family is from Boston
  • The family is Italian
  • The family is uneducated or hillbillies.
  • The family is poor or just very, very informal.
  • Mama tends to have "not from America" connotations.

"Pa" doesn't tend to have the same connotations

  • The family is uneducated or hillbillyish.
    • Hanna Barbera cartoon The Hillbilly Bears referred to the father bear as "Paw".
  • Papa is usually adorable European children, or rich children who put the accent on the last syllable.
  • Pap or Pappy
    • Popeye's father is called Poop Deck Pappy.
    • In the musica Carousel, there's a line in "June is Bustin' Out All Over" where a girl sings "Ma is getting kittenish with Pap".
  • Pop is another "this family is informal"
    • Pops Racer from Speed Racer
    • Pop-Pop being a grandfather version of the name though no examples come to mind at the moment.

What about Grandparents?

  • Pop-Pop
  • Granddad
  • Grandfather
  • Grandpa
  • Peepaw

  • Nana
  • Bubbe (Jewish or Russian) or Bubbie
  • Gran
  • Granny
  • Grandma
  • Grandmama
  • Meemaw


  • Archie:
    • Veonica refers to her father as Daddy to highlight her Spoiled Sweet situation.
    • Dilton formally refers to his parents as Mother and Father.
    • The Blossom twins also refer to theirs as Mother and Father.
    • Pop from the Chok'lit Shoppe is known only as Pop which means it doubles as Everyone Calls Him Barkeep.
  • Silk:
    • She hasn't seen her family in at least a decade so doesn't feel exactly close to her parents, but she calls them Mom and Dad to make them feel better. She eventually grows into feeling closer to them by the end of the series.
  • Superman: Clark Kent refers to John and Martha Kent as "Ma" and "Pa", to invoke wholesome Midwestern farmer folk.


  • The Princess And The Frog:
    • Charlotte calls her father Big Daddy
    • Tiana calls her parents Mama and Daddy while both are alive.
    • Did Naveen ever address his parents affectionately?
    • Mama Odie is called Mama Odie by everyone, partly as a sign of respect for her as not only an old lady but a powerful magical lady.
  • Tangled and Tangled The Series:
    • Rapunzel refers to Gothel as Mother Gothel because Gothel wanted her to believe she was Gothel's daughter, but the affection in that relationship only went one way.
    • Rapunzel refers to her parents as Mom and Dad once the events of the movie have elapsed.


  • Armageddon: Grace Stamper refers to her father, Harry, by his first name Harry because she feels he's naturally immature and she's more together than he is. But when it turns out that he'll have to remain on the asteroid and die, she reverts to calling him Dad while she grieves his impending loss.
  • Flash Gordon: Princess Aura is Ming's daughter, but she only ever calls him Father. The formality of the Mongo emperor demands it and even the rebellious Aura doesn't step out of line here.


  • Webster: The titular tiny person called his adoptive female parent "Ma'am". Because "it sounds like Mom" even though she's not his birth mom.
  • Diffrent Strokes: Arnold and Willis referred to Drummond as Mr. Drummond for most of the series. His daughter Kimberly called him daddy. When the series got into its final season or so, the boys started calling him Dad after he legally adopted them.
  • Good Times: J.J., Thelma and Michael all called their father "Daddy" and their mother "Mama." They were closer to Florida because their father was always off looking for work or traveling for work.
  • Bewitched:
    • Samantha refers to her mother as "Mother" because Endora disapproves strongly of her husband Darrin.
    • Endora encouraged Tabitha and Adam to call her Grandma-ma, with a rather posh emphasis on the first 'ma' syllable.


  • Juniper:
    • Berry, the spoiled rich brat of a unicorn takes the fancy address for parents Up To Eleven. He calls his parents "Mumsy" and "Pep-Pep".
    • Lola, the goblin who just joined the household refers to her mother as "Ma." Lola is originally from New Jersey, so it's a diminutive and a term of endearment two for one.


  • Avatar The Last Airbender:
    • Katara and Sokka's grandmother was Gran-Gran, or just "Gran" when Sokka was unhappy or annoyed with her.
    • When Gran-Gran Kanna married Pakku, Sokka offered to call him "Gramp-Gramp" but was rebuffed.
  • Dexters Laboratory:
    • Dee Dee is a normal-ish kid so refers to her parents as Mom and Dad.
    • Dexter fancies himself a serious scientist so calls them Mother and Father.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Both incarnations subvert the trope with the girls themselves. They never call Professor Utonium anything but "Professor" but they definitely consider him their father, and when there are gift giving occasions, give him things that say "#1 Dad" and the like.
    • Princess Morebucks is a spoiled brat and calls her father Daddy.
  • Kick Buttowski: All 3 kids tend to default to Mom and Dad.
    • Kick is closer to his mother, though, and sometimes he calls her Ma.
    • Brianna is the princess and the youngest and she exploits that with "Mommy" and "Daddy".
  • The Loud House
    • Lincoln tries to curry favor with their father with a mug that reads "Top Pop" and by writing World's Greatest Dad on his pancake breakfast in chocolate chips.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Steven is very, very close with his father. He calls him "Dad" for the most part, but with lots of affectionate variations like "Daddy-O". He has never met Rose Quartz for real, but when he speaks of her, he calls her "Mom", most likely because of the deep affection and reverence showed her memory by Greg and the Gems.
    • Peedee and his brothers' relationship with their father isn't really developed enough to comment on, but they all call him Dad.
    • Connie calls her parents Mom and Dad as a sign she's growing independent of her mother's controlling and overscheduling her life.
    • Sour Cream calls his stepfather Yellowtail, and his biological father, Marty, nothing at all.
    • The Pizza twins call their father Dad, and there's a term of endearment they use for their grandmother, Nanafua.
  • Trollhunters:
    • Jim calls his mother Mom even though they're really very close.
    • Toby calls his grandmother Nana, and they're closer than Toby would like.
    • Claire calls her parents Mama and Papi.
  • Phineas And Ferb:
    • Although Lawrence is their stepfather, Candace and Phineas refer to him as Dad.
    • Although he exasperates her more times than not, Vanessa calls Doof "Dad" as an indication she loves him and appreciates his misguided, often over-the-top ways of showing he loves her.
  • Duck Tales 2017: Webigail calls her grandmother "Granny". The two are very close but Webby is feeling a tiny bit confined by her grandmother's protectiveness.

May 30th 2017 at 12:19:32 PM

You do have to account for grandparents somehow. Fix that and the title, and I'd say this is a go for launch.

May 30th 2017 at 1:29:03 PM

Trope is good, title is horrendous. Too long and clinical, not really memorable or catchy.

May 30th 2017 at 10:47:51 PM

"Parental Name Characterization" works best from those.

May 31st 2017 at 10:45:53 AM

I'm only saying this as a formality: there's so much to glean from this trope that we'll basically have to split this page as soon as we launch it.

Jun 4th 2017 at 1:56:08 PM

Of the proposed names Parental Name Characterization sounds best to me.

Jun 7th 2017 at 8:34:23 AM

Maybe Parental Characterization Titles is a bit better, sense this trope most often refers to characters calling their parents by something other than their proper names.

Jun 11th 2017 at 2:26:32 PM

Change "name" to "referral".

Aug 10th 2017 at 6:07:09 PM

  • Throughout Bambi II Bambi refers to the Great Prince as "Sir" to reflect the latter's distant and somewhat intimidating nature to him. Them fully developing a loving bond is culminated by Bambi finally calling him "Dad", an even less formal term than his "Mother" whom he had a far more relaxed and affectionate relationship with beforehand.

Aug 10th 2017 at 9:48:27 PM

  • Vivio from Lyrical Nanoha normal calls her mothers Nanoha-mama and Fate-mama (or occasionally just mama if only Nanoha is present) as a sign of how close she is with them. When she's suffering from Cloning Blues near the end of StrikerS, she refers to them as Nanoha-san and Fate-san to show that she doesn't feel that she deserves to be their child.

Sep 20th 2017 at 1:05:07 PM

  • Utilised iconically in The Simpsons. Bart regularly calls his father, Homer, by first name or other more derogatory titles to display his cocky impudence. In the original shorts, Lisa did similar to show her similar bratty characterisation, though when she diverged into a more precocious, well behaved child, she started referring to him solely as "Dad". As shown in the flashback episode "Lisa's First Word", both kids referred to Homer by first name even as infants, building up to the heartwarming final scene where Maggie calls him "Daddy", though out of earshot.

Sep 24th 2017 at 11:21:04 AM

When Bart is feeling kindly toward Homer, he does still call him dad, though.