Merriam-Webster, widely acknowledged as the hippest, saltiest dictionary of 2017, has taken to its “Words We’re Watching” blog to inform the internet that the word “dad” is edging ever closer to adjectival status. Not because it can be used to modify terms like “jeans,” “dancing” and “jokes”; as Merriam-Webster explains, nouns are often used in this way: “Nouns do the adjective-like job of modifying other nouns — that is, limiting or specifying the other noun’s meaning — all the time in phrases like apartment building and apple tree — and are still considered nouns.”
And both “dad” and “mom” have been used in that manner for quite some time; consider, for example, the famous 2003 Saturday Night Live skit “Mom Jeans”:
But as “dad” and its uncomfortably sexual brother “daddy” have ascended to meme status in recent years, people have begun to use them (as well as, of course, “mom” and “mommy”) in ways typically reserved for adjectives.
Merriam-Webster explains, “It’s when [words] start to be used with adverbs like more and less and totally and so, and when they develop comparative and superlative forms, that we consider them as having taken on true adjective functions.”
And that’s exactly what’s happening to “dad” and “mom.”
Not only can something or someone now be the daddest or the mommest, at least in slang usage, but as MEL Deputy Editor and Informal Ambassador to the Youth Alana Levinson informs me, a thing or person can also be “so daddy” or “daddy af.” In the latter usage, “af” is standing in for a more traditional adverb like “extremely” or “very,” but it’s an adverb nonetheless — making “daddy,” by extension, an adjective. (No word yet on whether “dad” and “mom” could also be used as verbs, although I don’t see any reason why not.)
But Merriam-Webster says we’re not there yet — in fact, the “Words We’re Watching” blog’s stated raison d’être is to discuss “words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met our criteria for entry.” Still, it writes, “we’re always happy to see evidence that the lexical family is getting bigger.” Sounds to me like we have the dictionary’s blessing to daddy it up! (See? Verb.)
All of which is to say that while “dad” and “mom” don’t technically qualify as adjectives, perhaps they will in a year or two — if anyone is still using adjectives by then.