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"Cheese-eating surrender monkeys," sometimes shortened to "surrender monkeys," is a derogatory phrase referring to the French that gained notoriety[1] in the United States, particularly in the run-up to the Iraq War.



The phrase first appeared in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "'Round Springfield" (first aired on April 30, 1995).[2] Groundskeeper Willie, the school janitor, is teaching French due to budget cuts, dressed in a striped shirt and a beret. In a heavy Scottish accent, he greets the class with "Bonjourrr, yah cheese-eatin' surrender monkeys!" According to the DVD commentary for the episode, the line was "most likely" written by Ken Keeler.

The "surrender" element of the phrase refers to the American perception of the Battle of France as being virtually a "surrender" to Nazi Germany. This was again referenced in the episode "The Blunder Years", when Lenny (while scared) said, "I'm shaking like a French soldier!" The "Cheese eating" element relates to the well known cheese production and eating in France.

In the European French-language version of that Simpsons episode, Willie's line was dubbed as "singes mangeurs de fromage" (cheese-eating monkeys) without any mention of "surrender". The line does not translate easily because "surrender" forms part of an English compound noun. The rules of French syntax do not allow such ready formation of nouns by noun stem compounding.

Iraq War

N.Y. Post cover from December 7, 2006

The line was first picked up and used predominantly by Republican American politicians and publications. They were led, according to the British national newspaper The Guardian, by Jonah Goldberg, a columnist for the U.S. bi-weekly National Review and editor of their website National Review Online.[3] Goldberg's online-only column, the G-File, is written in a more casual, personal manner and in the late 1990s often contained Simpsons (and other pop-cultural) references. Goldberg's repeated aggressive use of the phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" led to its more widespread use amongst his readers, although Goldberg had stopped using it by the time the phrase was gaining mainstream popularity post-9/11.

France opposed many U.S. positions and actions, in particular, the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[4] Some argue the phrase's success reflects aggression in the U.S. towards countries such as France who oppose the U.S. in international forums.[1] The phrase, and similar opprobrious comparisons, have been used more frequently by some U.S. media outlets, such as the New York Post and commentator John Gibson of the Fox News Channel (both owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, parent company of the Fox Network, on which The Simpsons appears.), and commentator Mark E. Hyman of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.[citation needed]

The New York Post resurrected the phrase "Surrender Monkeys" as the headline for its December 7, 2006, front page, referring to the Iraq Study Group and its recommendation that U.S. combat brigades be withdrawn from Iraq by early 2008.[5]

Correspondent Ed Helms from the Daily Show also used this expression when interviewing a US Congressman; when told this was not the most constructive way of critiquing the French, Helms offered the expression "truffle-shaving, fondue-dipping, bidet slurpers" as a possible substitute.

Use outside the United States

In December 2005, the phrase was used by British United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nigel Farage who said the French President Jacques Chirac was " cheese-eating surrender monkey...", in his unflattering comparison to Tony Blair during a European Parliament session following Blair's brokering of the EU budget deal.

Edouard Lapaglie, faux-French comedy sidekick to broadcaster Martin Kelner on BBC Radio in Yorkshire on a Friday and Saturday night, is frequently referred to jocularly as a "soap-dodging cheese-eating surrender monkey".

In Marvel Comics, X-Statix, writer Peter Milligan introduced a supposedly French supervillain known as Surrender Monkey, a member of the mutant group Euro-Trash. His super power was the ability to "quit at just the right time". He is later revealed to be a rogue Central Intelligence Agency agent posing as a French mutant.[6]

On the the satirical British TV show Have I Got News for You, former Conservative leader William Hague has used the phrase when hosting the show on two different occasions. On the first of those, however, he said that he didn't agree with it, as they had left out "wine-guzzling".

On another British TV show, QI, Graeme Garden turned the phrase around, referring to Americans as "Burger-eating invasion monkeys". The phrase "haggis-eating suspender monkey" was also used by Garden, as his character, Dougal, on an episode of radio programme You'll Have Had Your Tea to describe his friend Hamish, who is Scottish and was wearing ladies' clothing at the time. Also on QI Series F Episode 11 Emma Thompson called the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" when she found out that the French had called the British "lazy".

British TV show presenter Jeremy Clarkson described the Renault Clio V6 as a "surrender monkey" in terms of handling at its limits on BBC 2's Top Gear,[7] and the Renault A610 Turbo as a "cheese-eating surrender monkey" on his DVD Supercar Showdown. Again, in series 10 of Top Gear, he described a panel of judges including Jay Leno, Carroll Shelby, and Jean-Michel Cousteau by "imitating" Shelby telling Cousteau "shut up Frenchie you cheese-eating surrender monkey."

See also


  1. ^ a b Wimps, weasels and monkeys - the US media view of 'perfidious France' The Guardian. Retrieved on December 27, 2006
  2. ^ Sound recording of Groundskeeper Willie's line About: Political humour. Retrieved on December 27, 2006
  3. ^ Younge, Gary; Jon Henley (February 11, 2003). "Wimps, weasels and monkeys - the US media view of 'perfidious France'". The Guardian.,,893202,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  4. ^ "France threatens rival UN Iraq draft". BBC News, October 26, 2002. Retrieved on April 23, 2007
  5. ^ Lathem, Niles (December 7, 2006). "Iraq 'Appease' Squeeze on W.". New York Post. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  6. ^ Peter Milligan. X-Statix #13-14, 24)
  7. ^ Season 2, Episode 5.

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