20 June, 2015
Now, the VOA Learning English program, "Words and Their Stories."
On the third Sunday in June, Americans take time to recognize and thank a special person in the family – fathers! Father's Day celebrates the importance of fathers, young and old, and the men thought of as father figures.
"Like father, like son" is probably the most common father expression. It means a boy is very much like his father, and sons often do what their fathers did before them. This can be a good thing or a bad thing.
Harry Chapin's song, "Cat's in the Cradle," was popular in the 1970s. He sings about a father who did not spend time with his son. His son grew up to be a man who did not have time for his aging father. Like father, like son.
"...And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me. My boy was just like me."
The words "the child is father of the man" come from the William Wordsworth poem "My Heart Leaps Up." It means people's personalities form when they are children. They will most likely have the same qualities as an adult that they had as a child.
Used in everyday speech, one could say, "In his case, the child was father of the man; he loved nature as a child and now works as a botanist."
Let's say you want to tell a child a story about something that happened long before they were born. You could say it happened when they "were just a twinkle in their father's eyes." This expression has a humorous and dreamy feel. Here, the word "twinkle" suggests the interest your father had in your mother.
When a much older man is interested in a much younger woman and supports her with his money, he is called her "sugar daddy." The money part is very important – that's the sugar.
Sometimes fathers are not a good influence or active in the lives of their children. In that case, a person may look for a father figure, a man who is not actually the person's father but who acts like one.
The relationship between a man and his son can be complex.
There is a time when the son wants to grow into his own man – something described often in literature. Author Tom Wolfe wrote about a father and son relationship in his 1987 book, "The Bonfire of the Vanities."
"Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father."
Rarely are father and son relationships as complex as they are in the film series "Star Wars." Luke Skywalker, the hero, fights against the evil Darth Vader. Then, Vader gives Luke the shock of his life.
The words "I am your father" are now part of American pop culture. And it's more fun if you say it like Darth Vader.
The relationship between a father and daughter is often simpler. The expression "daddy's little girl" is understood to mean that, in a father's eyes, his daughter can do no wrong.
There is usually not a dry eye at any wedding during the traditional father-and-daughter dance, especially if they are dancing to a song like Michael Buble's "Daddy's Little Girl."
I'm Anna Matteo.
To all the fathers out there – Happy Father's Day!
"You're the spirit of Christmas – the star on the tree. You're the Easter Bunny for mommy and me. You're sugar. You're spice. You're everything nice. And you're daddy's little girl."
Anna Matteo wrote this "Words and Their Stories." Jim Tedder voiced the part from "The Bonfire of the Vanities." George Grow was the editor.