Sunday is called Father’s Day, but many of us refer to our male parents as Dad or Papa rather than by the more formal “father.” Why does English have so many names for the same person? And where do they all come from?
Like the names for our female parents, “papa” and its many variations were primarily imitative of the first sounds that young children make – the p, b and ah sound. Throughout the Middle East and South Asia, fathers are called “baba,” which sounds a lot like papa. In fact papa, baba, and father are related to the Sanskrit word pitr.
“Dad” was recorded in the 1500s but probably was used by children for a long period before that. The formal “father” was spelled “fader” until as recently as the late 1500s. “Pops” is the most recent linguistic twist on affectionate names for our dads. It arose in America in the 1830s.
Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington in 1910. It did not become an official holiday in the United States until 1972. It is always celebrated on the third Sunday in June.
What do you call your dad?
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