When I was at school, I took up both French and German. In the former, I was taught that they used mon pere for father, and in the latter it was mein Vater.
In reality, when I went on exchange trips to both countries both girls I was partnered up with addressed their fathers with papa.
I felt betrayed by my languages teachers, but it’s a nice way to set up today’s post. Papa may not be a usual name, but it’s a fascinating one nevertheless as there a many men (especially in Europe, it appears) who go by it, along with a little blue creature called Papa Smurf.
The French get off lightly though, because another word in their vocabulary containing papa is barbe à papa; it literally means father’s beard but is actually their word for candy floss, or cotton candy.
Papa also appears in the NATO spelling alphabet, clearly for the letter P. for those who don’t know, the NATO alphabet replaces letters with distinct words and is usually used over radio transmissions and the like to make it clear which letter you means, thus C becomes Charlie, and P becomes Papa.
It’s also worth noting that there are dozens of Greek surnames which begin Papa-. One of the most recent former prime ministers of Greece was called George Papandreou, and he was succeeded by Lucas Papademos. In Greek, papas means priest, whilst pateras/bampas means father/dad.
Papa is also a place name, and the first place I think of is Papau New Guinea. The papau part of the name comes from pepuah, which is a malay word to describe the tight-curls of melanesian hair.
Then we have several places in Scotland with the name Papa, mostly likely named after the papar which were a group of monks or other priests which came after them.
In Latin, papa means pope and that’s where we get the title of Pope for the leader of the Catholic church from.
In Maori, Papa means earth and in Maori and Polynesian mythology, Papa, or Papatuanuku, was the goddess of the earth and the mother of many of the other gods. the husband of Papa was Rangi, who was the god of the sky.
Clearly, this name has as many religious ties as fatherly ones.
There is another, slightly less cheerful, association with the name. Pāpa comes from Sanskrit and in Hinduism it is generally related to the concept of sin.
Let’s end with two names similar to Papa:
Papak, an Ancient Persian name meaning little father
Papaya, a fruit