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I am confused on how Vati and Mutti are used. As I understand it, Vater is used like father in English while Mutter is like mother. So would Vati and Mutti be more of a colloquial thing like mum or dad?

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Yes, „Vati“ and „Mutti“ are two of many different pet names for „Vater“ and „Mutter“. Here is an example of how many names there are for „Großvater“ and „Großmutter“.

As you can see „Opi“ and „Omi“ are very rarely used. The same applies to „Vati“ and „Mutti“ (See Ngramm).

The most common names for „Vater“ and „Mutter“ are just „Papa“ and „Mama“. But it’s just a matter of taste and every family handles it differently.

There are even some kids who call their parents “Mom” and “Dad” But that is displeasing to most parents. Also note that „Mutti“ can be used when you mean the Federal Chancellor of Germany „Angela Merkel“.

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    That's a joke which boils down to the point a Mutti is called that way when the kids don't want to hear her nagging and endless advice. The loving, caring word is always Mama.
    – Janka
    Aug 12, 2017 at 19:12
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    @Janka, I am quite sure that some people use Mutti in the same way that others use Mama.
    – Carsten S
    Aug 12, 2017 at 19:22
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    The ngram tells you something about the frequency of words in books.
    – Carsten S
    Aug 12, 2017 at 19:24
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    It's simply wrong when you're saying Omi/Opi/Vati/Mutti is very rarely used. Maybe it depends on the generation and region but it's widely and often used in my region and generation
    – äüö
    Aug 13, 2017 at 21:23
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I remember that my mother (born in Munich in 1928) told me that in Nazi Germany the use of "Mutti" and "Vati" displaced the use of the more warm-hearted "Mama" and "Papa". One may argue that this is just an individual opinion, and I do not really know why she came to this view. What I know for certain is that she addressed my grandparents by "Mutti" and "Vati". Perhaps other relatives told her that "Mama" and "Papa" have been the traditional (Bavarian) words for addressing parents. In fact, she often spent her school vacations with relatives in a provincial and ultra catholic region of Bavaria where Hitler (believe it or not) was regarded as the Antichrist. She told me that she (living in the "Capital of the [National Socialist] Movement") was appalled at that time to hear this, but it could explain her statement.

Okay, very speculative ... but here is an interesting article from which I quote

Ein Kosename spaltet die Republik
Westdeutschland sagt Mama, Ostdeutschland sagt Mutti: Eine aktuelle Umfrage hat gezeigt, dass die beliebteste Anrede für Mütter nicht einheitlich ist – und regional bedingt. Das zu erklären ist nicht leicht.
[... ]
Es gibt Belege dafür, dass "Mutti" im Nationalsozialismus ziemlich gebräuchlich war.

A term of endearment divides the republic.
West Germany says Mama, East Germany says Mutti: A recent survey has shown that the most popular form of address for mothers is not uniform - and regionally dependent. Explaining this is not easy.
[... ]
There is evidence that "Mutti" was quite common under National Socialism.

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    "Es gibt Belege dafür, dass "Mutti" im Nationalsozialismus ziemlich gebräuchlich war" is a pretty bs quotation (not your fault) not providing any evidence. ngrams shows "Mutti" is used a lot more in literature today than it was back then, so what? I also can't confirm that "west"="Mama" and "east"="Mutti" - That's more of a N/S divide.
    – tofro
    Aug 24, 2023 at 6:58
  • @tofro Of course both variants "Mama / Mutti" and "Papa / Vati" have been popular for a long time. And certainly it is a primarily an individual family thing which one is preferred. But I do not agree to your judgement that the linked article contains bs. It is based on empiric data though it is not clear how large the sample was (and thus the statistical significance is unclear). And ngram is not really conclusive because it only covers the written use and not oral use in families. Also see Carsten S's above comments.
    – Paul Frost
    Aug 24, 2023 at 17:03
  • @PaulFrost I removed the full quotation of the article. Quoting a full article is a violation of intellectual property rights, and could get us (the website) in trouble. Aug 25, 2023 at 3:54
  • @JonathanScholbach I was not aware of this. Good to know it for future cases.
    – Paul Frost
    Aug 25, 2023 at 6:36
  • @PaulFrost :+1 :) Aug 25, 2023 at 6:53
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"Vati" and "Mutti" were still used in the 1950's. When unions fought for Saturdays to be free, they came up with the slogan: "Am Samstag gehoert Vati uns!," meaning "On Saturdays, Dad belongs to us!" In those terribly conservative days, some married couples with children called each other also "Vati" and "Mutti", rather than by their actual first names.

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    Not directly an answer, but a datapoint that shows the east/west divide as claimed in other answers isn't quite true.
    – tofro
    Aug 24, 2023 at 8:06

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