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March 06, 2020  |  Friday words #210  |  430 hit(s)

What do you call it when a father babysits his own kids? We actually have a word for that in English: parenting. But it's not unheard of for men's parenting efforts—any effort whatsoever—to be celebrated. And this type of admiration is the subject of today's word: dadulation.

Dadulation is when a man earns praise for performing "even the most basic caretaking responsibilities for their children," as one definition has it. It's a portmanteau, of course (dad+adulation) that works on the same principle as the many man- words that have emerged recently, like mansplaining and manspreading.

It also captures an inflection point in attitudes toward men's family responsibilities. When I was a kid (I'm old), fathers had a role in child-rearing, but it was largely in teaching children about what at the time would have been considered traditional roles: you learned how to throw and how to drive from your dad, for example[1]. These days many men participate fully in parental duties[2], but older attitudes linger, and men often do get kudos for performing parenting tasks that women mostly don't get credit for. Thus dadulation, which mocks this continuing divide in attitudes about parental responsibilities.

I got this word from Friend Tod, who pointed me to the WaPo article where it was defined. The article has a dozen similar blended terms like male pattern blandness, femwork, and redudedant.

Origins. In Seattle these days, schools are closed, Costco is cleaned out, and tech workers have been told to work from home. The coronavirus is engendering what some people call "an abundance of caution." There's another word that might also apply, and I started wondering where we got it: panic.

And a surprising origin it is. We got the word from French, as we so often do, but it goes back to Greek. And in Greek, it was an eponym, based on the god named Pan (!).

As the OED explains, the Greeks thought that Pan hung out in forests and caves, on mountains, and in other "lonely places." Suppose that you, too, are hanging out in such a place and you hear some strange noises. You might find yourself feeling fear at the noises, which the Greeks might have referred to as panikon deima, "fear caused by Pan." The full expression is attested in French (terreur Panice in the 1500s). But soon enough the latter part of the term rubbed away and by the 1600s the English were writing about "That great Army..were put into that pannick."

It will be interesting to see how long the current Pan-ic fear lasts. Hopefully all that abundance of caution will keep things under control and we return to normalcy soon.

[1] Such was the stereotype. Me, I learned to drive from my girlfriend's mother.

[2] I realize that studies suggest that duties are rarely divided equally between parents, with women still performing the bulk of parenting tasks.

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