Cherchez la femme

Cherchez la femme
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Sexist French Expression

Meaning Same problem as always
Literally Look for the woman
Register normal
Pronunciation [shehr shay lah fahm]
IPA   [ʃɛʀ ʃe la fam]

Usage notes: The sexist French expression cherchez la femme can be traced back to Alexandre Dumas père’s Les Mohicans de Paris, written in the 19th century, in which police office Joseph Fouch announces

  et je cite

Il y a une femme dans toutes les affaires ; aussitôt qu’on me fait un rapport, je dis : “Cherchez la femme.”
There’s a woman in every case; as soon as someone reports a crime to me, I say, “Look for the woman.”

In other words, whenever a man does something wrong, it’s always a woman’s fault. Her greed, jealousy, anger, or spite forced the poor, innocent man to commit the crime, so once you figure out who she is, case closed.

 Conseil concis: Cherchez is the vous imperative of the verb chercher.

 En anglais

The original meaning of cherchez la femme is pretty much reserved to "airport novel" detective stories. However, in British English, cherchez la femme has taken on a broader sense of a common cause for seemingly unrelated problems.

Par exemple…

– J’ai pris du poids, j’ai toujours soif et je suis extrêmement fatigué.   – I’ve gained weight, I’m always thirsty, and I’m extremely tired.
– Cherchez la femme, c’est à cause du diabète.   – Same problem as always, it’s due to diabetes.

Variations

  • cherche la femme
  • chercher la femme
  • il faut chercher la femme

 Related lessons

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Cherchez la femme
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