Papi vs Ay, Papi!
One Man’s Papi Protocol
I have tried to think about why this is and have found that I have defined a pretty complicated protocol for the use of the words — Papi, Papá, Papa and all the other variants. I guess because of all the different cultural connotations topped with my American Brain/Mexican Brains’ struggle for power.
Now that I’m older and arguably wiser, I still find that I tap into the protocol I created for the Papi word. (I share my Papi Protocol below) Recently I struggled naming my site Papi Knows because of my mixed feeling towards it, but the good outweighed the bad in the end.
I found that how, and when, you use “Papi” depends on nationality and what region of the country you are from.
Being Mexican and growing up rural areas of the of Mexico and the United States, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone use the word Papi other than the women in my family saying it to little toddler boys.
Never heard Papi from the men, at least not as an adult. There probably are other times it was said, but we won’t go there and keep it wholesome here. But, really, if I think about it my mixed feelings toward this word, I think it stems from those “alternative” meanings.
When I heard it used for the first time on TV by a Dominican guy, it blew my mind. I was a kid. It was strange to me. When I heard it used by men on other men it was by my Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Dominican guy friends when getting, and giving, shoutouts to other guys – - Hey, Papi! or Hey, Papa!
I think I had to connect the use of it to the 1950′s word “Daddy-O” to make me feel comfortable when it was said to me by other grown men. Mexicanos don’t use Papi as slang, ever.
I’m sure I said Papi to my dad when I was a toddler but something changed (I don’t know at what age) and after that I would only call to my dad using the words, “pa” or ” ‘apa” (I guess I dropped the first P or it’s silent!) Here’s the kicker though, when I talk to my siblings or my mom, I feel fine using Papi if, and only if, I was talking about him for example “Where’s Papi?” or “Ask Papi, he should know.”
I guess the same protocol could be applied to the word “Daddy” and the same provocative connotation can be attached to that English word too. But for some reason it’s not the same. I consider the provocative version of Papi stickier than its English counterpart.
Why is that? Maybe overall, Papi has that “Latin flare thing” about it that I’ve defined using the American side of my brain. Because of this, I’ve put more negative weight on the P word when used in that way. A silly theory, maybe.
I understand that others might not see it in that way and the ladies might use it interchangeably with the word baby with referring to their guy in a cutesy term of endearment. Hell, My mom still calls me Papi sometimes and I’m 30-friggin’-years-old. So, then there’s that way of using Papi – in place of baby – that puts the word on the fence for me.
This whole mapping of this word’s usage reminds me of the classic Eddie Olmos speech about biculturism in the Selena movie when they’re riding in the Big Bertha bus. It’s that complicated.
My Papi Protocol
- I say ‘apa if talking directly to my dad.
- If speaking in English, and to my mom or siblings about my dad, it’s Papi.
- I’ll also say Papi to my baby son but only within the first 12 months, after 12 months I might call him papa for next couple of years but beyond that, I’ll probably drop the use and go to hijo.
- If it is extended family or friends, I’ll say, mi ‘apa or mi jefe.
- If I was talking to strangers in Spanish, I’ll say mi Papá.
- I’ll feel comfortable if my Caribbean friends call me Papi.
- I don’t like when I hear it used in the “Ay, Papi” way.
- My mom still has license to call me Papi.
- And as a fan of baseball, I know who Big Papi is.
Any one else using this handbook, or know what I’m talking about? Maybe it’s all the same in English and these details of saying daddy, dad, father work in very much the same way but I wouldn’t know since my lean is toward using the P word! I can only imagine the handbook if I was from the Caribbean!
Navo is the founder of Papi Knows, a crowd-sourced Dad y Papi community that includes social networking, blogs, and videos on all things Papi. He also is the creator of Blogadera, a Latino blog directory.