Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/34

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

equality was pointed out, with finger-snappings, lest it might offend the royal toe, and a running accompaniment of 'Dadda! dadda! ' (Grandfather! grandfather!) and of 'Dedde! dedde!' (softly! softly!) was kept up." In Asia, we find cases in which the titles "Lord Raja and Lord Father" are joined together. In Europe, at the present time, father is applied to the czar; and in ancient times, under the form sire, it was the common name for potentates of various grades—feudal lords and king's: and still continues to be one of the names used in addressing a monarch.[1]

More readily than usual, perhaps from its double meaning, has this title been diffused. Everywhere we find it becoming the name for any kind of superior. Not to the king only among the Zulus is the word "baba," father, used; but also by inferiors of all ranks to those above them. In Dahomey a slave applies this name to his master, as his master applies it to the king. And Livingstone narrates how he was referred to as "our father" by his attendants, as also was Burchell by the Bachassins. It was the same of old in the East; as when "his servants came near, and spake unto Naaman, and said. My father," etc.; and it is the same in the remote East at the present time. A Japanese "apprentice addresses his patron as 'father.'" In Siam "children of the nobles are called ' father and mother 'by their subordinates;" and Hue narrates how he saw Chinese laborers prostrating themselves before a mandarin, exclaiming, "Peace and happiness to our father and mother!" Then, as a stage in the descent to more general use, may be noted its extension to those who, apart from their rank, have acquired the superiority ascribed to age: a superiority sometimes taking precedence of rank, as in Siam, and in certain ways in Japan and China. Such extension occurred in ancient Rome, where pater was at once a magisterial title and a title given by the younger to the elder, though not related; and in Russia, at the present time, the equivalent word is used to the czar, to a priest, and to any aged man. Eventually it spreads to young as well as old. Under the form sire, at first applied to feudal rulers, major and minor, the title of father originated our familar sir; once general among us in speech and still in letters.

A curious group of derivatives, common among uncivilized and semi-civilized peoples, must be named. The wish to compliment by ascribing that dignity which fatherhood implies, has in many places led to the practice of replacing a man's proper name by a name which, while it recalls this honorable paternity, distinguishes him by the name of his

  1. Though the disputes respecting the origins of sire and sieur have ended in the conclusion that they are derived from the same root, meaning originally elder, yet it has become clear that sire was a contracted form in use earlier than sieur (the contracted form of seigneur), and hence acquired a more general meaning, which became equivalent to father. Its applicability to various persons of dignity besides the seigneur, is evidence of its previous evolution and spread; and that it had a meaning equivalent to father, is shown by the fact that in early French grant-sire is used as an equivalent for grand-père, and also by the fact that sire was not applicable to an unmarried man.