Cherchez la femme

‘Cherchez la femme’ is sometimes mistakenly thought to refer to men’s attempts to pursue romantic liaisons with women. In fact, the phrase, which is occasionally used in its loose English translation ‘look for the woman’, expresses the idea that the source of any given problem involving a man is liable to be a woman. That isn’t to say that the woman herself was necessarily the direct cause of the problem, as in Shakespeare’s Macbeth for instance, but that a man has behaved stupidly or out of character in order to impress a woman or gain her favour.

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