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.

20150924151034!David_Cameron_official -via wikimedia

Official photo via wikimedia

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.


Love in the English Langauge (The Valentine’s Post)

In honour of Valentine’s Day let’s look at the language of love.

It’s been noted that many languages have more words for love than English. That like so many generalisations is perhaps both true and not true.

While there are lots of words that we tend to just translate as love. Love can be a verb, adjective and a noun (both abstract and concrete) in English so it’s a hard working word. What’s more love has been part of English as long as there has been English, (perhaps this fact accounts for some of its many applications).


Adore: (verb) means to love both romantically and not, perhaps in an idealised sense and quite a strong emotion.

I adore chocolate; I could eat it morning noon and night.

Boyfriend: (noun) a male romantic partner, possibly a lover possibly not. Not to be confused with male friends in general.

Her new boyfriend is very handsome, but always late.

Crave: (verb) means to (almost physically) need something an addict craves the object of their addition this is very strong and almost pathological.

After a weekend away for work I was craving my bed and my family.

Divine: (adjective) if you think someone is divine it means you are really into them, you think they are just about perfect, and it’s not logical.

Despite her being mean, smelly and rude; Kevin thinks Tanya is divine.

Exclusive: (adjective) if a relationship is exclusive, neither partner sees (romantically) anyone else; the opposite of an ‘open relationship’.

Tom wants to be exclusive but always falls for people who want open relationships.

Fond: To be fond of (verb expression) you can be fond of friends, family, and even pets or places. It means you have a benign well-wishing feeling towards them. It’s not as strong as some of the others, and can be used with but.

Personally, I’m fond of dogs but I can understand why people don’t like them.

Flirt: (noun/verb) if you flirt with someone you talk and act towards them in a way that might create interest. However, it might not be serious; it can be just for fun.

Was Tom flirting with Sue just now?

Girlfriend: (noun) a female romantic partner, possibly a lover possibly not. Not to be confused with female friends in general.

His new girlfriend is very elegant, but usually rude to his friends.

Hang out with: (verb expression) if you hang out with someone a lot people might think you are ‘together’.

Clive has been hanging out with Claire a lot lately, I wonder if anything is happening there?

Hit on someone: (verb expression) if you hit on someone you make a pass at them you say and do things to try and get them romantically interested in you.

Cynthia was definitely hitting on Tony last week but I don’t think he noticed.

Hallmark Holiday: (noun) a hallmark holiday is one that only exists for sales and marketing purposes. It’s only celebrated to get people to spend money on things they otherwise wouldn’t.

Valentine’s Day, Teacher’s Day and Halloween have all been accused of being hallmark holidays.

Into: to be into (verb expression) if you are into someone or something you like it, possibly a lot.

Simone is really into Frank but he’s more into football than anything else.

Just a fling: (noun expression) this is a way of dismissing the significance of a relationship.

They did hang out a bit last summer but I’m sure it was just a fling, they don’t really have much in common.


Keen on: (verb) if you are keen on someone or something you like them/it.

Sue is keen on Brian, but I’m not sure it will go anywhere.


Lover: (noun) a person who you are engaged in a physically romantic relationship with is your lover, it may or may not be a life partner.

His lover told him that the new book wasn’t worth buying.


Mope: (verb) if you mope you stay still or move slowly in a way that is sad and expresses that sadness.

Carlos has been moping about after Elaine for months, but I don’t think she likes him that way at all.


Need: (Noun/Verb) this one is very strong; if you need somebody/something you can’t do without. As a noun people might talk about needs as criteria for a partner.

Her needs are simple, he has to be handsome, rich and like talking about her.


Open Relationship: (Noun) if you are in an open relationship everyone sees other people romantically as well, and everyone is open and knows about it.

Some people find themselves falling into open relationships because they’re unsure how to talk about their relationships with partners.


Passion: (noun) if you have a passion for something you love it. It can also be used to discuss the intensity of a relationship.

Ginny and Paul shared a passion for rare books and bird watching.


Queer: (adjective) this is one of the words that some people who are interested in other people of the same gender as them use to identify themselves. It’s also lent its name to a field of critical analysis: Queer Theory.

Martha told Mike she was queer, but maybe he was hitting on her.


Romantic: (adjective) if you do something romantic you act in a way that inspires or suggests romance.

Do you really find Valentine’s Day romantic? It’s such a Hallmark Holiday.


Serious: (adjective) if a relationship is serious it is long term and stable; they might get married, buy a house and/or have children.

He’d been in love before, but this time it was serious.


Together: (preposition/adjective) if people are together then they are in a relationship.

Are Sam and Tina together? They’ve been talking in a corner all evening?


Unrequited: (adjective) an unrequited love is one that is not reciprocated or returned.

Many young men apparently harbour an unrequited love for Emma Watson one of the stars of Harry Potter, fortunately most of them realise this.


Visit (Love Visit): (noun) I can’t be 100% certain as this is an old idiom but this seems to be somewhere between a date that you go on with someone or possibly what one might refer to in the vernacular as a booty-call.

With love from: (semi-set expression) often written at the end of email/letters or in cards and on the labels of gifts.

With love from ELTSU

X – it’s easy to cheat with x and z we’ve doubled up above instead. See H & F


Yfall: (Old English – Verb phrase) a long time before Shakespeare, before even Chaucer, in Old English we would have yfalled into love (now we fall in love).  Let’s hope that this isn’t considered cheating as discussed in X & Z


Z – it’s easy to cheat with x and (slightly less so with) z we’ve doubled up above instead. See H & F