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Cherchez la femme
ʃɛʁʃe lə ˈfam is a French
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...
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)
Alexandre Dumas, , born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world...
. The first use in the novel reads:
Cherchez la femme, pardieu ! cherchez la femme !
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 !»
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
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...
: 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.