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Pet names for Poppas

fatherhood

Any reference to the notion of Victorian fatherhood typically brings to mind an image of a distant and sever man. Dr. Julie Marie Strange challenges that image in her new book: Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914″ (2015), and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) supports her findings.

Strange found that Victorian fathers were as hands-on as today’s dads, talked about the same way, and had affectionate relationships with their children. Likewise, the OED indicates that more synonyms for “dad” were created during the nineteenth century than at any other point in history.

The long list of Victorian pet names for dads may simply reflect the fact that more words were created during the Victorian Era, or it could be a reflection of a broader trend in the history of fatherhood. Words like “paw” (1826), “governor” (1827), “pop” (1828) and “bap” (1842) sound overwhelmingly affectionate, leading me to conclude that Victorians must have been talking, reflecting, and writing about fatherhood more than ever before.

But this “more than before” aspect is part of the trend, as Strange’s research found that Victorian dads were being praised as “new men” and better parents than their fathers had been, something every generation of fathers has been told since.

Lost for words to describe how you feel about this? A few more synonyms for dad might help.

da (1851) a pet name for dad in the nursery, or around the house

baba (1863) a way to call one’s father, when speaking babytalk

pops (1893) also used to address a jazz musician

poppa (1897) a pet name for your dad, lover, or husband

Whatever your kids call you now, I hope all the dads out there have a happy Father’s Day this weekend.

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday: frat boys or super villains?

GreekWilde

My quote this week should have been from John Oliver, who asks: “How is this still a thing?” Alas, Oliver wasn’t alive in the 1800s and he is not a writer. Because it’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday and I want to talk about fraternities. I’ve selected a quote from Oscar Wilde.

Wilde was a member of the most famous and, perhaps, respected fraternities, the Freemasons. He liked the secrecy, dress, and ritual of freemasonry, joined the Apollo Masonic Lodge at Oxford, and was quickly promoted to the “Sublime Degree of Master Mason.”  He valued his membership as a freemason so much so that he was reluctant to leave the Protestant faith because of it.

Before beginning my research, I knew of the Freemasons, but didn’t really think of them in the same way that I think of school fraternities. Now, that I have, it seems obvious, but before I began looking into the subject, I thought of the Freemasons as an extremely secretive organization of Protestant men, bound by honour, tradition, and myth. My opinion is admittedly biased against fraternities, having experienced first-hand the same kind of sexual violence they are now famous for. In seeking balance, I’ve tried to find their appeal and imagine that supporters of Greek Life sought what the Freemasons represented in my imagination: a bond of honour, tradition, and myth.

I spent part of my afternoon speaking with a respectable former frat boy (the term ‘frat’ originated in 1895). He had nothing but good experiences with belonging to a fraternity and felt that he was able to contribute to both his school and its broader community in a more meaningful way than he might have otherwise, unless, of course, he joined another of his school’s clubs that didn’t charge dues and had a mandate of giving, like the United Way, or numerous honours societies.

I asked him if he is concerned with the reputation members are getting from association with the terrible acts that are being reported in the news, and he said that he was.

I wondered what compels young men to continue joining such organizations, then I attended a lecture on representations of masculinity in superhero films, which talked about the rise of hyper masculinity since the 1950s, which, I noticed, parallel shifts in the history of fraternities.

Fraternities experienced a rise in membership along with the rise in university enrolment after the Second World War, which lead to the introduction of hazing in the 1950s, which is when cinematic superhero history began. The superheroes of the silver screen are overly preoccupied with proving their manhood and impressing their fathers, while disassociating themselves from anything even remotely feminine. Frat boys take pride in joining the same fraternities their fathers participated in, while hazing can be viewed as an exercise in proving one’s manhood.

Dr. Kara Kvaran said that to qualify as a superhero one needs to be two of the following: (1) performing heroic acts for a community; (2) in a costume, or with a hidden identity; and (3) possessing superpowers. Those sound like the things Oscar Wilde loved about the Freemasons, costumes, rituals, and secrets. This leaves me with the question: if frat boys want to be like superheroes, why do they consistently do such terrible things?

I asked the former frat boy that I was talking to today what would be lost if fraternities ended. Is there anything about fraternities that is worth preserving? He couldn’t think of anything that you couldn’t get by joining any other student clubs, which do a lot of fundraising and charitable acts.

If there is an answer to my question, I imagine it must have something to do with what is valuable about masculinity, which is itself a myth. I don’t say that to be derisive; not all myths hurt us; femininity is also a myth. They are myths that many of us choose to identify with (myself included), but we create those myths with our identities. The superhero engages the myth of masculinity by protecting and providing for the communities they serve. Yet, I fear fraternities have become something those communities need to be protected from.

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday: An Ode to and from the Necktie

necktie

If you are going to be a man, be a gentleman. Dressing well may be the first step, but there’s clearly more to it than that. The necktie is a great place to start!

The modern necktie, which is to call it a fashion accessory that is popular in the English-speaking world that is forever envious of French taste, the modern necktie evolved from the cravat, which originated in the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). Croatian mercenaries wore identifying ties around their necks that intrigued the French. In naming the new trend, the word “cravat” flowed from a deviation in the seventeenth-century French pronunciation of word “Croates” (French for “Croatian”).

To this day, International Necktie Day is celebrated in Croatia on October 18th.

The necktie brings me to “The Shirt-Collar” (1848), one of my favourite stories by Hans Christian Andersen.

There was once a fine gentleman who possessed among other things a boot-jack and a hair-brush; but he had also the finest shirt-collar in the world, and of this collar we are about to hear a story.

The story takes place after the shirt-collar decides he wants to get married. The chief obstacle that the shirt-collar faces in this endeavour is that he is not a gentleman at all, but a braggart. That, to me, is part of the seriousness of a well-tied necktie. A well-tied necktie shows people you know how to dress well, so that you don’t have to brag about it. A gentleman’s conduct speaks for him, so he has time to listen.

For my poetry class, I was going to write an ode to the necktie, while tying it into Writer’s Quote Wednesday, like I did last week, but I found that someone beat me to it. F.H. published “An Ode To The Necktie” in the Lawrence Journal on 22 August 1945. It was about this time, in the evolution of the necktie, that they started to take on lovely colours, as you can see in F.H.’s description. Still, due to the hot weather, F.H. isn’t happy with his necktie at all and is jealous of women.

Consequently, I’ve thought about the necktie’s reply.

necktiereply

Which brings me to a final point on what it means to be a gentleman: don’t complain. Certainly never try to argue that things are harder for you than they are for somebody else.

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