- Anita Brookner, in Family and Friends, has: ‘“Daughter!” cries Sofka, in a loud voice which startles them both, as does the archaic use of the word.’ It is the vocative use of the word which is archaic, of course, though it is still to be found. In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers, the black middle-class doctor, of rather formal manners, uses it to his daughter. It occurs also in The Late Risers, by Bernard Wolfe, when an American father is making a more serious pronouncement than usual to his daughter. There is an interesting comment in The Moonflower Vine, by Jetta Carleton, where a father constantly uses ‘daughter’ to each of his female offspring. ‘It was a little more authoritative than the given name, which might not occur to him at that moment anyway.’ In real life, however, one suspects that the modern miss would hoot with laughter rather than respect the ‘authority’ of ‘daughter’, and would expect her father to remember her name no matter how many sisters she had. The heroine of The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence, is speaking of vocative usage at the beginning of the twentieth century when she says of her father: ‘He called me “miss” when he was displeased, and “daughter” when he felt kindly disposed towards me. Never Hagar’.The parental use of ‘daughter’ as a vocative was, as Anita Brookner implies, far more usual at one time. Shakespearean parents use it regularly, often followed by a first name. ‘Now, daughter Silvia,’ says the Duke of Milan in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. ‘Now, master Slender! Love him, daughter Anne,’ says Page, in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew says: ‘Why, how now, daughter Katherine, in your dumps?’ ‘Call you me daughter?’ replies Katherine, but only because she thinks that her father has other-wise forgotten the relationship between them: ‘You have show’d a tender fatherly regard/To wish me wed to one half lunatic.’ War Brides, by Lois Battle, has a scene where an upperclass American woman greets her daughterin-law for the first time with ‘Welcome dear daughter.’ She also remarks: ‘I’m so glad you’re here, because I’ve always wanted a daughter, and now I finally have one.’ Her use of ‘daughter’ encourages the younger woman to respond a little later with ‘Mother’.Beyond its use within the family, ‘daughter’ has long been employed in a religious context. Older priests, who in the Roman church will themselves be addressed as Father by their women parishioners, may well use ‘daughter’ in reply. The term is professionally convenient, effectively substituting for a name that may be unknown or temporarily forgotten. Its use is also sanctioned by high authority. At Matthew (9.20) we find:And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’One problem with ‘daughter’, for normal usage purposes, is that it has no diminutive form, unlike ‘sonny’ from ‘son’.
A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . Leslie Dunkling . 2015.