cherchez la femme

Today’s morning name, a French expression whose literal meaning is straightforward, but whose uses in context are anything but.

From Wikipedia:

Cherchez la femme is a French phrase which literally means ‘look for the woman’. It is a cliche in detective fiction, used to suggest that a mystery can be resolved by identifying a femme fatale or female love interest.

The expression comes from the novel The Mohicans of Paris (Les Mohicans de Paris) published 1854–1859 by Alexandre Dumas (père) [an adventure story, not a detective story]. The phrase is repeated several times in the novel

… The phrase embodies a cliché of detective pulp fiction: no matter what the problem, a woman is often the root cause.

The phrase has thus come to refer to explanations that automatically find the same root cause, no matter the specifics of the problem.

Two plays on the phrase (from among many), below the fold:

From detective fiction. From Wikipedia:


Look to the Lady is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in January 1931, in the United Kingdom by Jarrolds Publishing, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York, as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery. It is the third novel featuring the mysterious Albert Campion, accompanied by his butler/valet/bodyguard Magersfontein Lugg.

I won’t attempt to summarize the (very complex) plot, but, clearly,  a woman is centrally involved.

Churchy LaFemme. Pogo’s turtle friend in Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo. From Wikipedia:


Churchill “Churchy” LaFemme: A mud turtle by trade; he enjoys composing songs and poems, often with ridiculous and abrasive lyrics and nonsense rhymes. His name is a play on the French phrase Cherchez la femme, (“Look for the woman”).


2 Responses to “cherchez la femme”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    As a Pogophile of many years’ standing, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that Churchy’s “real” name was Churchill.

    Not only did he invent nonsense verse like that depicted in #2, but he had a habit of twisting the words of familiar songs to produce some delicious nonsense, e.g.:

    Ma bunny lice soda devotion,
    My boony life-saver D.C.,
    MacBoniface rover commotion,
    Oh, brickbat Mahoney Toomey!

    (From memory, so possible minor inaccuracies.)

  2. Mitch4 Says:

    My teenage version of that song made it about Anna instead of Bonnie:

    My analyze over the ocean
    My analyze over the sea
    My analyze over the ocean
    Oh bring back my anatomy

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