Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why Dad?

I love history and language,
so my research for Fathers Day pleases me on both counts.
Let's start with the history:
According to at
the holiday of Fathers Day had its origins with one woman from Spokane, Washington,
Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by
 her widowed Civil-war veteran father, William Jackson Smart.
Here's a web site sponsored by the Spokane Visitor's bureau
that has some interesting  photos:

That official fathers day web site and an un-cited entry on Wikipedia
have information about Sonora Smart Dodd.
Sonora's mother died in 1898 when giving birth to her sixth child, a boy named Marshall.
Sonora helped her father, whom she greatly admired, raise her younger brothers.
One day in church, hearing a sermon about mothers day,
Sonora decided fathers should also be so honored.
And through her efforts, in 1910, Washington became the first state
to celebrate a day honoring the contributions of fathers to their families.
But the holiday was not embraced as quickly as mothers day had been.
By 1924, an election year, President Coolidge urged all states to follow Washington's lead.
But it wasn't until 1972 that the holiday became "official" under Nixon's administration.

One might wonder  why there was such apathy and, in some cases, antipathy. quotes an unnamed--and perhaps cynical?--historian
as saying that some people: 
"scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts
to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving,
 or they derided the proliferation of such holidays
as a commercial gimmick to sell more products--
often paid for by the father himself.”

Perhaps that sentiment is true, but on the other hand,
Dodd's efforts allowed my family to enjoy many happy Sundays in June
celebrating our love for our Dad.

And that brings me to the language portion of the blog.
How do we get "dad" from the word "father"?
The answer lies in the way that babies acquire their native language.
As any parent knows, an infant begins cooing and babbling
vowel sounds like ee and oo, phonetically [ i ] and  [ u ],
 in the first few months of its life.
By the later babbling stage, around 9 months, babies begin to articulate the sounds
ba-ba-da-da  or just da-da-da.
Through parents' encouragement, English-speaking babies 
eventually are socialized to saying "Dad"
whenever the reference is required.
And that has been going on for a very long time.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists dad or dadde
as appearing in the literature as far back as the 15th century.
On a more personal note, my dad  loved wind toys of all kinds,
including kites and pinwheels.
He also loved windmills, mobiles, and the hot air balloon he once got to fly in.
He's gone now, but I always think of him
when I see anything bright and colorful catching the wind,
like this wind toy my husband and I gave him his last Christmas:

We can't keep our fathers with us forever,
but fatherhood, that is eternal--
and worth celebrating.

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