French phrase of the day: Père Fouettard

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French phrase of the day: Père Fouettard
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond"

This is a figure you are likely to encounter in early December, but one which also has a wider meaning.


Why do I need to know Père Fouettard?

Because you want to avoid him!

What does it mean?

Père Fouettard is a traditional figure in the Saint Nicolas Day celebrations which take place in eastern France on December 6th.

The name literally translates as 'Father whipping' and Père Fouettard is the visitor that naughty children get. While well-behaved children get a visit from Saint Nicolas who brings them small gifts like sweets or gingerbread, bad children get a visit from Père Fouettard, who brings a whip.

READ ALSO The extra festival that some of France celebrates in December


As a figure he is slightly controversial as he is traditionally attended by three black servants, although this tradition is not really observed any more.

But Père Fouettard, thanks to his role of scaring kids, is sometimes used in a more generic way to mean a bogeyman or figure of fear.

Use it like this  

Père Fouettard rend visite aux vilains enfants - Père Fouettard visits the bad kids

l'Union européenne est devenue le père fouettard - The European Union has become the bogeyman







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