Lode vs. load, and why you and your mother should care

Collage picture of an overloaded mother having a garage sale
Artwork from Clker.com and Open Clip Art Library

The term “motherload” performed a pratfall across the classified ads this week and landed in my neighborhood with a thud.

I tried to laugh. Instead, I scratched my head and then conjured up the picture above.Garage sale ad with title "Motherload of All Sales"

You see, the term “mother-lode” emerged during the Gold Rush days of the mid-19th century and described an especially rich vein, or “lode,” of precious ore.

It later came to mean a rich supply of anything.

“Motherload,” on the other hand, is a mere child by comparison. In some cases, writers have employed wry creative license with “motherload”: in the title of a one-woman play about trying to be a perfect mother, in the title of a blog about a superhero housewife, in the title of a book that centers on pregnancy, in the name of a doula service intended to take a burdensome load off mothers.

In most cases, though, ignorance rules. “Mother-lode” has become “motherload” in many cases because people simply don’t know the difference.

Urban Dictionary defines “motherload” as a “jackpot, big winnings or big findings.” “MotherLoad” is also the title of a video game, one about – yes – mining a mother-lode.

And then there’s Justin Bieber, whose lyrics in “You’ve Got the Mother Load” no doubt bring tears to the eyes of literate mothers everywhere:

Like bling in your mouth but it’s just old fillings.

Dry skin on your hands, and you’re so cracked

Hey girl, I want to watch you do you pilates, and skip

The hard part.

Cuz baby, you’ve got the mother load

So here’s my challenge: Learn the difference between “load” and “lode,” and save “motherload” for wry plays on words.

Do it for Mom.

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