It’s been observed in the UK that fathers have been in the news a lot lately. Whether it’s furore over the financial affairs of David Cameron’s family especially his father or the birth father of Arch-Bishop Justin Welby, it’s been hard to avoid mention of them in the news.
Putting this aside the word father or a substitute (dad/daddy) shows up quite a lot in English idiom so let’s look at some of those phrases. Some of these are interchangeable but often there is a subtle shift in meaning between father and mother, as for the persistence of this in English look here.
“The father of x” while this can be quite common identifying tag “Steve is the father of Mary from round the corner.” It also acknowledges importance (often founding) in a field. “Jon is the father of post-modern deconstructionism”. This can also be applied within organisations indicating responsibility but not necessarily founding status. “Simon is the father of our Bournemouth operation.” This is occasionally used across gender lines but most would switch to mother if you’re not sure then use something else. To many people, “Madonna is the father of modern pop” just sounds weird.
“To be a father to x” this indicates a paternal (sometimes literally) role towards someone else, possibly a mentee/mentor relationship but often less formal. “Carl is like a father to me, he’s taught me so much about running the business”.
“To grandfather/ (be grandfathered) in” This one comes from employment unions when someone is grandfathered in they are accepted but not as a new applicant/apprentice but as a skilled, valuable and experienced person (often with a higher rate of pay, greater responsibility). This one can be used for members of either sex, although it may sound odd to some. “In recognition of her years of experience Sue was grandfathered into the union.”
“X is the daddy” to say that something “is the daddy” means it’s the biggest and or best of the type. “While it came late to the console market for many people the X-box remains the daddy of them all.”
“Who’s your daddy?” this is usually an assertion of victory, dominance or primacy often used quite aggressively and in fairly childish contexts. “Despite losing all night “Who’s your daddy” he shouted at the pinball machine every few minutes steadily feeding more coins in.”
“Dadspam” these are those jokes, images & videos that most of us get from older relatives who have recently (finally) gotten email.
“Dad-splain” a version of man-splain where a man regardless of relevant knowledge and/or experience attempts to explain something to a woman who may know a lot more about it than them. “Dad-splain” is when fathers (let’s face it guys it usually is) try to explain something to their children despite not knowing much about it, often embarrassingly in front of the children’s friends.
“Father: give me strength/have mercy” these reference prayers part of the Christian influence on the English language. In prayer and hymn God is often addressed as father.