June 25, 2005


Is there something wrong with you if you call your father "Daddy"? Jeremy posits that there is.

Here's the comment I put over there:
Jeremy, in my family, we kids always called our father "Daddy." He was Daddy. We stopped calling our mother Mommy (switching to Mother), but Daddy was always Daddy. We never called him Dad. Not once. We disrespectfully called him "the O.M." (for "the old man") for a while -- though not to his face. My mother always referred to him to us as "your father." It's hard to convey the deep sense in which "Daddy" was just exactly what he was. No matter how mature or immature I was at any given point, it would not have shaken that belief. This was not a matter of sentimental love either. The tone could be quite negative, yet he'd still be Daddy.
As I got older, I recognized that it seemed a bit oddly babyish to call him Daddy, but somehow it just wasn't possible to stop, even though it had not been a problem to drop the use of "Mommy." Jeremy raises the theory that there's a matter of regional usage here and that "Daddy" is a Southern thing, so let me add that we were raised in Delaware. My father was from Delaware but my mother was from Michigan, so it's possible that we kids followed the regional usage for each parent's place of origin, but that seems awfully weird. I have no memory of either of them telling us what to call them.

A fine point in my family is that early on my father's mother established that grandkids would call her "Mom." My father's father at that point became "Pop." So the paternal grandparents in my family were always "Mom and Pop," and neither of those words would ever seem to be a normal thing to call parents. Thus, we couldn't get to "Mom" from "Mommy," but needing to throw off the babyish "Mommy," we resorted to the oddly formal "Mother." Somehow, the corresponding "Father" never seemed right. And the way to "Dad" was also obstructed. So for the rest of their lives I called them "Mother and Daddy."

Now both are dead, and when I talk about them, I only say "my mother and my father."


tommy said...

My parents are Mama and Daddy to us. Although I have adapted to calling them Mom and Dad when talking about them to people outside the family because of people like Jeremy.

howzerdo said...

I love regional and ethnic linguistic differences! My parents are both still living, and my siblings and I have always called our father "Daddy" and mother "Ma," never Dad or Mommy. Daddy is anything but weak, even at age 78, and "Ma" suits her perfectly. I hardly think this means there is something wrong with any of us, and I don't consider it babyish.

My mother called her parents by the formal "Mother" (even when Ma was a child) and the less formal "Daddy." My father's parents died when he was a young child, but I suspect, had they lived, they would have been "Mama" and "Papa."

By the way, we are about as northern as can be - natives of upstate NY (for countless generations on my mother's side; my father's parents were immigrants, came through Ellis Island).

chuck_b said...

I cannot imagine calling my father daddy. And honestly--no disrespect intended to anyone--the idea itself creeps me out. I stopped calling him daddy well before adolescence.

My grandmother however I called Nanny well in to adolescence. Not sure where that tradition came from. I'm a native Californian; she was a Mainer.

Did you there is a a word for referring to your father's side of the family? The word is "agnate". I'm not sure what the motherly equivalent is.

chuck_b said...

I know about paternal and maternal...but those words seem so...genetic.

Dave said...

I call 'em "mom" and "dad."

vnjagvet said...

My folks grew up in the heart of Pensylvania Dutch country and were born in the second decade of the last century. My mom, an only child, called her parents mother and daddy. My dad's father died when he was young, but he and his siblings called their mom "mother" as well. Grandparents were called grandma and grandpa [last name].

My younger brother and I called our parents mom and dad, but my (much) younger sister called them mother and daddy. Grandparents were addressed as above.

I cannot remember my parents ever expressing a preference, other than to let us know they disapproved of friends calling their parents by their first names, a peculiar custom that seemed to creep in in the fifties.

Since 1968, we have lived in Atlanta. My five daughters were raised here, and have called my wife mom, mother and occasionally momma depending on their degree of satisfaction with what she is trying to accomplish and their agreement or disagreement with same. They usually call me daddy, but sometimes dad without regard to their degree of satisfaction with my pronouncements or actions.

They addressed my mom grandma, and my wife's parents Maw and Paw.

Paul said...

Mom amd Dad for all their life.
and my kids call us that now.
Anything respectful that they like is good.

Joseph White said...

I think generally, it's seen as acceptable for a woman to refer to her father as "Daddy," but much less acceptable for a man. At least where I live. Switching over to calling my father "dad" is not a decision I made consciously, it just happened. I don't know a single man who refers to his father as "daddy." I don't know whether that's just because I live in Seattle, or what.

SippicanCottage said...
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Shane said...

I've always called my father "baba," the standard Chinese way of addressing one's father, even though we rarely speak Chinese to one another. I've always called my mother "mommy" though, and I found it difficult to reconcile this with my tough guy image when I was in high school. "Mom" never sounded natural for me. Now, several years later, I just address her by "you" or "hey" (pathetic, I know) when I speak to her, and "Mom" when I speak about her.

SippicanCottage said...
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ploopusgirl said...

Aw, Jim. "Maw" and "Paw"! That's charming. I love the idea of even more children being raised to believe that their slurry drawl is acceptable or, you not, not mind-numbingly obnoxious. Thanks for introducing new rednecks to the world!

vnjagvet said...

What I didn't tell you, PPG was that Maw and Paw are New Yorkers, and second generation German immigrants (hardly rednecks) and began calling each other by those names when our girls were around.

The origin: My first daughter could only get out Maaaaa and Paaaa when she first began to talk as an infant, and that's what she called them during visits.

The name stuck after a little transliteration.

BTW, only one of my daughters has a drawl and it is not "slurry". No rednecks in this house!!!!

Siggy said...

Personally, I think it sounds ridiculous for a girl in their teens to call their Dad "Daddy." Makes me want to puke.