“The Girl Who Was Plugged In” is such an interesting short story, and there seems to be hidden meaning at every turn, so I decided to go back to it for the OED exercise. I didn’t have to go far into the text to find an intriguing word. It’s the same phrasing that had me confused the first time I read it: the narrator’s strange use of the term “daddy”. It’s after the very first paragraph of the story, and the narrator is instructing you to “Look, dead daddy…”, so as to take notice of the story being told. I first related this word to a sexual connotation – maybe all of those Lana del Rey songs messed me up – but I thought of things relating to “sugar daddy” and the like. (Which is why I get grossed out when girls call their father’s “daddy” after a certain age. But whatever, live your life). The passage is already so confusing, so filled with loaded words (words you know are loaded, but you just don’t know with what), and this “daddy” business just adds to the unsettling disarray.
Beginning with the definitions, it was what you would expect: An endearing form of “dad”, or it can be used as slang for an older lover. It could also be used to make things irreverent. I went on to look up the definitions for “dad” and got an abundance of definitions. It could mean a father, a lump, a deformation of God (which is why we say dad-gum-it, in a sort of way of saying God damn it, which I think is super interesting), and also to knock/beat.
Going back to the text, I looked again at the phrase “Look, dead daddy…”. In the paragraph before it, the narrator is speaking to us, calling us names and mocking us with terms like “zombie” and “doubleknit dummy”. Why should the criticism suddenly stop with “daddy”? I think my original assessment of the sexual nature of “daddy” was wrong, and instead, the narrator is using the term to further detail our failures. One of the definitions of “dad” was a lump. In the way we often call unintelligent people “lumps”, the narrator could in the same way be calling us thick. Another notable definition is “to strike with a blow that shakes or sends a shock through”. That is the purpose of this whole thing, after all; to tell us of our future transgressions and to shock us into change. The use of “daddy” could be used as both the insult to continue on the trend of the first paragraph, but also as an insight into the purpose of the short story as a warning.