There is a saying that has grown in use in recent times: “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be

Dad or Father? Think again

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father or dad

There is a saying that has grown in use in recent times: “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad”. Put bluntly, it is a very silly saying. The saying is predicated on the notion that being a dad means one is more involved in the every day life of a child. In reality, there is no difference between those two words, as they are both just words to describe the same thing. None. Zero. The two words actually mean the same thing.

The distinction between the two words is that they are often used by two different classes of people.

If you belong to the highest class of people where proper etiquette and grooming are imbibed into children from the get go, your kids will most likely address you as father or mother. Everyone else outside of that class (meaning the rest of us) usually have their kids call them dad or mom. It has nothing to do with the level of involvement or intimacy between the father and child. There is a finesse involved in a child using the word father instead of dad, and it is that level of finesse that I would love to see in my kids.

Next time someone tells you any man can be a father, but it takes a special someone to be called dad, the joke is on them. They have no idea what they are talking about. If at all we have to make a distinction, any man can be a dad; only among the cream of the crop will you find a father.


  1. Na;

    I think you have it wrong.

    That saying is spot on.

    What you seem to have wrong is the fact that words often evolve to have nuances of meaning different from what you have in the dictionary.

    Dad, from recent use, connotes more intimacy than ‘father ‘.

    Therefore, the idea is that, it only takes max six seconds to father a child, whole it takes a lifetime to be, and remain, a Dad

  2. EyeBeeKay,

    I have several people who I did not “father” (as you say), but who I am a father to. See? How did I “father” them in the six seconds that you speak of? The saying is poppycock. Totally meaningless.

  3. No.

    You can’t have several people you father…. Not unless you are talking about surrogate fatherhood which has nothing to do with being a father.

    You mentor, you don’t father

  4. “Father” in the context of the quote is used in terms of “sire” (gosh, love those old fashioned words). So yes, any man can (to be blunt) shoot sperm and father (haven’t you seen that guy in Germany who is one of the most prolific sperm donor fathers in existence?) but that doesn’t make them a father in the emotional and intimate sense. I can’t see how a surrogate or a “hit and run” man can be a real father to a child he doesn’t acknowledged apart from biologically.

    And I have to agree with EyeBeeKay – you are a father figure and a mentor to many. Not the same as you being a father to your own biological children. Unless you have adopted plenty children you rush around taking to school, putting to bed, making sure they do homework and paying school fees. Does Madam know???

  5. Noni,

    “Father” in the context of the quote was not used in terms of “sire”. The correct way to use it in that context would be to say, “Any man can father (i.e. sire) a child…” But that isn’t how it is used.

    By your submission, the man who adopts a child is not a father to him. Duh. The saying is silly. The end. If you have any point to make to irresponsible dads, make it some other way. Father and dad are synonymous terms and have NOTHING to do with the character of the man involved.

    There are responsible dads as well as irresponsible dads. It is nothing more than that.

  6. There are responsible and irresponsible dads, true. Adoptive dads are valid in the emotional and nurturing sense. Pick any variation of this, that isn’t what the quote is referring to. But I also understand where the quote is coming from, so I wouldn’t be as dismissive of it as you have.

    That quote really gets your goat, no? I wonder what other fantastic parenting quotes I can dig up to irritate the hell out of you.

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