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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 '17 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 '17 at 19:22
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    The ngram tells you something about the frequency of words in books. – Carsten S Aug 12 '17 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 '17 at 21:23

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