A quick survey of new "dad lit," released in time for Father's Day, offers a thoroughly clear-eyed view of the dad landscape.
There's humorist Dan Zevin's "Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad" (Scribner); fathers' rights authority Jeffery M. Leving's "How to Be a Good Divorced Dad" (Jossey-Bass); and TV writer/producer Dan Bucatinsky's "Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad" (Touchstone).
The phrase fathered (pun intended) a number of words we use for all sorts of non-parental jobs, says Kory Stamper, assistant editor at Merriam Webster.
"'Patron' comes from the Latin patronus, which is derived from the Latin pater, meaning father," Stamper says. "In ancient Rome, someone who was called a patronus had duties that were comparable to those of a father: they protected cities, defended people in courts of law and so on.
"In the Middle Ages, the meaning of the Latin patronus shifted to refer to patron saints or patrons of a benefice, and then broadened to refer to anyone or anything that should be imitated."
Today, she notes, "patron" is gender-neutral.
"Women have been called patrons since Chaucer's time," Stamper says. "But its roots are in father."
Pope is another word that stems from father.
"The title for the head of the Roman Catholic Church comes ultimately from the Greek word pappas, which was a title given to bishops," Stamper says, "and is also baby-talk for father.
"Abbot, an English word that means 'the superior of a monastery for men,' also comes from a word for father, but not the Greek or the Latin roots. Abbot comes ultimately from abba, the Aramaic word for father."
"Patriot" has paternal roots as well.
"Our English word comes from the medieval French patriote, which means 'compatriot,'" Stamper says. "But the French word comes ultimately from the Greek word pater, meaning father."
Next week we'll tackle the roots of the word "minivan." Or not.