Maybe it’s just me. But there are words I have strange relationships with. For example, as a young man I read “The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allan Poe. It includes the verse:
Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute’s well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well-befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
The sixth line intrigued me. I had never seen the word “Porphyrogene” before. In the late 1970’s it was harder to find information than it is today. Many of you probably also did not know the definition of porphyrogene.
As an inquisitive eighth grader I set out to find what it meant. I eventually discovered a wonderful magical book called the The Oxford English Dictionary. My school library had the condensed version. The full version is 21 volumes.
It’s quicker and easier to find definitions today:
Porphyrogenite: A Byzantine emperor’s son born in the purple or porphyry room assigned to empresses, hence a prince born after his father’s accession; a person born into the nobility.
Interestingly, Poe’s version porphyrogene is not a normal English conjugation. But, that’s the beauty of being a writer, you can make up your own words.
So, porphyrogenite is one of my favorite words. It’s a word I’m still waiting for a chance to use in conversation.
Dad is a word I’m not as comfortable with. And it’s a word I sometimes have difficulty using in conversation. My mother was married several times. I called my birth father Dad. But, my step-fathers were always known by their first names. I called my step-grandparents “grandma and grandpa.” Aunts and Uncles were given their honorary titles. But, Dad was a reserved word.
My mother married Lloyd Bliss and a few years later he adopted my older brother and me. I had called him Lloyd for those few years. Dad was not a name that came easily. Mostly, I just made sure I got his attention. I don’t think in the decades that I knew him that I actually called him Dad more than a half dozen times.
When I married, I got some wonderful in-laws. Others who had married into my wife’s family called my father-in-law dad. I tried. I really did. Instead, he was Joe. One of the greatest men I ever knew. And a man I’m happy to be related to.
As you all know, I have 13 children. I enjoy being called Dad, father, even Daddy. To my grandchildren I’m Papa. The same name I called my grandfather.
Four of my children are married. I approached each of my sons-in-law to have a conversation. . .about the word dad.
You can choose to call me whatever you’d like. You can call me Rod, or if you’d like you can call me Dad. Whatever you are comfortable with is fine by me.
My sons-in-law are not as uncomfortable with the word as I am. They’ve each chosen to call me Dad. It’s a decision I’m very happy with. They are good men and I’m honored they would call me dad.
However, it did recently create a problem. One of my sons-in-law is an immigrant from Haiti. He’s going through the naturalization process. There’s an interview process where the immigration officials ask questions to determine if the marriage is a sham.
And what is the name of your father-in-law?
Um. . .
Come on, honey, what’s my dad’s name?
I don’t know. I’ve just always called him Dad.
And that’s a name I’ll gladly answer to. Even if at times I had trouble saying it.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
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