So Father’s Day is on the approach once more, and it’s that time of year when we stop to think about everything our dads have done for us in the course of our lives. There will no doubt be drinking, dining, celebrations and hilarity, but have you ever thought about what we call our fathers? The English language has a huge array of affectionate terms for the word “father,” and they all have their own uses and places in our society.

Baby Babbling

Linguists believe that the most common diminutive terms for father: dad, daddy, pa, papa, all stem from the fact that they are comprised of some of the first sounds that we can make as babies. As the words of our early years they have a special sentiment too, so while we often abandon terms like “daddy” as we come into our teenage years, it’s not uncommon to revert to more childish terms as a sign of affection as we progress into adulthood. Shorter, more colloquial terms like “pa”, “pops”, and even more unique terms like “chief” tend to be used when directly addressing our dads.

Modern Additions

Pop and pops are the most recent linguistic developments for naming our fathers; originating in the 1830’s these terms have a more grown-up feel than some others, say daddy or papa, but still denote intimacy and affection. They also have a certain informality and fun to them that makes them quite popular, particularly in the US.

All in a name

What we find particularly interesting, however, is how people’s terms for their father’s change with the situation. For example, when speaking to their fathers, daughters may use a variety of terms, but sons are more likely to use terms that denote status within the family such as “chief” or “boss”. When speaking to strangers or friends we may say “my dad” or “my father”, but when speaking to close family members or siblings, the name is frequently used as a proper noun: “Dad”.

Whatever you call the first man in your life, be it dad, daddy, pops, chief, pa, or father, be sure to spoil him this father’s day. It’s so important that we show our father’s just how much we love them when we have the chance, so drink and be merry with your dad this June!