Illustration by MelinArt.
This week’s expression is, “Papa gâteau.”
Literally translated as, “cake daddy,” it is used to qualify 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.
Example: “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 a real cake daddy.”
Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:
(If no player appears, here’s a link to the audio file.)
This idiom, which appeared around the middle of the nineteenth century, was built as a derivation from the verb gâter, which means “to spoil”, both literally and figuratively. I will note that while spoiling a child has clear negative connotations in English, the French verb “gâter” depends on the context, and can mean either spoiling to excess, or pampering a child, but within reason.
I am fond of this expression because my own father was clearly the papa gâteau kind when my sister and I were growing up, and he also has a soft spot for cakes and sweet things, so it always seemed made for him.
The idiom can also be adapted to other members of a family — une maman gâteau (mommy), une tata gâteau (auntie), une grand-mère gâteau (grandmother), un oncle gâteau (uncle) — but it’s the father version that’s most often used.