Culture //

Daddy, My Lord

Ann Ding is a loving husband and father of three

I’ve never called anyone “daddy”. In my most embryonic of memories, I cannot recall addressing even my own father as “daddy”. I have a very strong aversion to the term. But what I’d like to put to you here isn’t that calling anyone “daddy”, including your father, is bad (like, it is, but whatever); it’s that the term “daddy” is a modern-day approximation of calling a male sexual or romantic partner ‘my lord’ in Elizabethan English.

Think about it – “daddy” is primarily a colloquial way for children to refer to their fathers. This is its purest function. “Daddy” also serves as a term that people use to address their male partners – it can be a term of everyday endearment (ew) or a more sexually-charged term of address (… ew). The term that served as both a child’s means of addressing their father and a woman’s means of addressing her male partner or husband in Shakespeare’s day? “My lord”. The connection is clear.

Now, when a child calls their father “daddy”, I would hesitate to say it connotes anything more than affection or childish playfulness. On the flip side, with “my lord”, the connotations are undeniable: both child and wife are socially obligated to acknowledge the rigid hierarchy of the family, with the man firmly at the top. Calling a male partner “daddy” probably sits somewhere in the middle – the language suggests that the speaker is a step below, and the “daddy” is in a position of authority (duh).

It’s also fitting that both “Father” and “Lord” are ways of referring to the Christian God. And remember “forever daddy”? These connections are tenuous, perhaps, but they’re there and they’re telling you that “daddy” and “my lord” are kind of like two sides of the same coin. If this were an even worse take, I’d be telling you that calling someone “daddy” is akin to worshipping them as the one true God.

Anyway. My point is that, if there was some sort of weird semantic vacuum that existed for a few centuries while calling husbands and fathers “my lord” was out of vogue, we’ve managed to fill it by stretching “daddy” to a semi-logical dual purpose. Is there another term that people commonly use for both fathers and male partners? Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll call my dad or something.