Cherchez la femme

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This article is about the French phrase. For the song performed by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band and later by Gloria Estefan, see Cherchez La Femme.


Cherchez la femme [ʃɛʁʃe la ˈfam] is a French phrase which literally means "look for the woman." The implication is that a man behaves out of character or in an otherwise inexplicable manner because he is trying to cover up an affair with a woman, or trying to impress or gain favor with a woman.

The expression comes from the 1854 novel The Mohicans of Paris by Alexandre Dumas (père).[1] The first use in the novel reads:

Cherchez la femme, pardieu ! cherchez la femme ![2]

The phrase is repeated several times in the novel. Dumas also used the phrase in his 1864 theatrical adaptation, which reads:

Il y a une femme dans toutes les affaires ; aussitôt qu'on me fait un rapport, je dis : « Cherchez la femme ! »[3]

Translated into English this reads:

There is a woman in every case; as soon as they bring me a report, I say, 'Look for the woman!'

The phrase embodies a cliché of detective pulp fiction: no matter what the problem, a woman is often the root cause. The phrase has come to refer to explanations that automatically find the same root cause, no matter the specifics of the problem.

List of Appearances in Media[edit]

The big band and swing influenced disco band, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, had a #1 U.S. dance hit, "Cherchez La Femme".

The phrase occurs in the film "Hopscotch" in 1980 as Walter Matthau explains to a guy why he needs 500 dollars. The phrase appears in the film Carry On Doctor, where Fred (Julian Orchard) uses it in a more literal sense, simply referring to looking for a woman who Ken (Bernard Bresslaw) has seen and taken a fancy to. The phrase also appears in the films Chinatown and Dr. No. The phrase appears in the episode Rin Tin Tin and the Wild Stallion of the American children's television program The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

The phrase appears in the novel Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut.

Ghostface Killah's song "Cherchez LaGhost" is a reference to the phrase.

This phrase appears on the video game Fallout: New Vegas as a female character perk. In combat, The perk lets you do +10% damage against female opponents. Outside of combat, you'll sometimes have access to unique dialogue options when dealing with the same sex.

This phrase appears in the film Mallrats when Brodie, played by Jason Lee, spots his love interest, Rene, played by Shannon Doherty shopping in the mall.

The phrase is said by Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) in the Northern Exposure episode "Only You" while talking to Chris Stevens (John Corbett (actor)).

It also featured on the spine of Elle magazine.

The West Wing Season 5, Episode 5. CJ Cregg Makes the remark when talking about an old flame named Ben.

Churchill "Churchy" LaFemme was the name of Pogo the Possum's friend the turtle in Walt Kelly's comic strip "I Go Pogo"

The phrase is said by Maggie Smith (Daphne) to Peter Ustinov (Hercule Poirot)in Agatha Christie's "Evil Under The Sun" (1982) as they investigate the murder of Dianna Rigg (Arlena).

In the 1978 Beatles parody film, All You Need is Cash, Mick Jagger is interviewed by Eric Idle, who asks, "Why did the Rutles break up?" Mick replies, "Women. Just women getting in the way. Cherchez la femme, you know."

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pierre L. Horn, ed., Handbook of French Popular Culture (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991), ISBN 978-0313261213, p. 41. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Dumas, Alexandre (1871). Les Mohicans de Paris (in French) I. Paris: Michel Lévy frères, éditeurs. p. 232. Retrieved 2009-08-07. "Cherchez la femme, pardieu ! cherchez la femme !" 
  3. ^ Dumas, Alexandre (1889). Théâtre complet (in French) XXIV. Paris: Michel Lévy frères, éditeurs. p. 103. Retrieved 2009-08-07. "Il y a une femme dans toutes les affaires ; aussitôt qu'on me fait un rapport, je dis : « Cherchez la femme ! »"