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Un Papa Gâteau

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Un Papa Gâteau

Here is a legitimate question to ask on Father's day: is Dad un Papa Gâteau?

Literally translated as, “cake daddy,” a Papa Gâteau is a doting father, one who’s affectionate and good-natured, and possibly one who allows his children to wrap him around their little finger every once in a while.

The expression is slightly ironic, however perfectly appropriate in any conversation about fathers, whether you are talking about your own father, the father of your children or anyone else's father for that matter.

Importantly, un Papa Gâteau shouldn't be confused with a sugar daddy, even though both expressions conjure up the same pictures of multi-layered, chocolate dripping, awe inspiring, baked creations.  The similarity stops here.  A Papa Gâteau is the best dad you can ever wish for your children.  The other type of daddy ... not so much.  Granted, in all good conscience, we can't rule out the possibility that a papa gâteau will become a sugar daddy as he gets older.  To add to the confusion, you will find a brand of sugar in France called Sucre Daddy.  But that's beside the point.

Origin

This expression appeared around the middle of the nineteenth century and is built as a derivation from the verb gâter, which means to spoil, both literally and figuratively.  Un Papa Gâteau is a dad who spoils his kids.  It's not clear whether he himself has a sweet tooth, but it's fair to imagine that he indulges his kids in many ways, including by feeding them sweets, presumably while Mom isn't looking.

Note that while "spoiling a child" has clear negative connotations in English, the French verb gâter most often means pampering a child, and doing so within reason.  If the child is spoiled rotten, you'd have to say: cet enfant est pourri gâté - where pourri is French for rotten.

The idiom can also be adapted to other members of a family — une maman gâteau (mom,) une tata gâteau (auntie,) une grand-mère gâteau (grandmother,) un oncle gâteau (uncle.)  However the father version is the one most often used.

Examples

Il n’a jamais été très branché bébés, mais depuis qu’il en a un, c’est un vrai papa gâteau.
He’s never been big on babies, but now that he has one, he’s an adoring father.

Quand nous étions enfants, notre père n'était pas un papa-gâteau.  Mais c'est vrai papi gâteau avec nos enfants!
Our father wasn't exactly a teddy-bear dad when we were growing up.  But he's a doting grandfather with our kids!

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