CHEESE-EATING SURRENDER MONKEYS
Of American-English origin, the phrase cheese-eating surrender monkeys is a pejorative appellation of the French people. It refers to France’s many varieties of cheese and to the French capitulation to the Germans in June 1940.
This phrase originated in ’Round Springfield, an episode of the U.S. animated television series The Simpsons first broadcast on 30th April 1995. In that episode, because of budget cuts at Springfield Elementary School, Doris, the lunch lady, has become the nurse, and Willie, the school’s groundskeeper, has been forced to teach French—the following is from the script of the episode as published on The Simpsons Archives:
– Bart: Mrs. Krabappel, I’m done failing the test. Can I please go to the nurse?
– Edna: Gosh, Bart, maybe you really are in pain. Well… it would be cruel not to let you go.
[files her nails, hums the national anthem]
[hums part of “Stars and Stripes Forever”]
Heh heh heh, now you may go.
– Bart: [walking into nurse’s room] Lunch Lady Doris? Why are you here?
– Doris: Budget cuts. They’ve even got Groundskeeper Willy teaching French.
– Willy: “Bonjourrr”, you cheese-eating surrender monkeys!
This image shows Willie as a French teacher, wearing a beret and a striped fisherman’s sweater in ’Round Springfield—The Simpsons, 30th April 1995:
The American conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg (born 1969) adopted and frequently used cheese-eating surrender monkeys in the National Review Online. In fact, all the earliest instances of the phrase that I have found are from articles that he published from September 1998 onwards:
1: 28th September 1998 – from Monkey See, Monkey Do; Overlooked; Noticed; DOJ On Lying About Sex:
The Saturday New York Times had an interesting item about the most self-important chain letter in recent memory. Co-written by Jack Lang, the former French Minister of Culture and the author William Styron, the letter attacks Kenneth Starr and defends the President of the United States. Mr. Starr, according to our French tutors is a “fanatical prosecutor with unlimited power” who is engaging in “inquisitorial harassment” of the President. Mr. Styron soberly comments that the letter “reflects the horror that’s pervasive in Europe.” […]
While I am unperturbed by the idea that the cheese-eating surrender monkeys don’t like the way we do things — they’ve gotten so little right for so long — when prominent Americans get on board we should take pause.
2: 2nd November 1998 – from March of Crimes; I Knew It; Vote:
The cheese-eating surrender-monkeys (as they are known on The Simpsons) — a/k/a. the French — lead the international coalition in mocking America about how we are treating the Clinton scandal.
3: 16th April 1999 – from the title of the article:
Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys From Hell
I’ve learned a few things writing a daily column from home. […]
When it comes to writing a column on the web, I’ve learned some important lessons as well. First, never over-promise, never over-extend. Another, which I’ve only learned recently, you never know who might be reading your column.
So, now I have a dilemma. Yesterday, I promised the “Top Ten Reasons to Hate the French.” But now I’m afraid the French might be reading my column (Lord knows, with structural unemployment of 12%, there are enough of them with time on their hands). I for one do not want to be beaten up and inundated with correspondence from snooty Frenchmen, like an Algerian applying for asylum.
4: 12th May 1999 – from The Aclu’s Next Big Thing; One Peeved Couch:
To this day, I am outraged that as an upper-middle class dilettante of the Hebraic/German/Scotch Irish persuasion from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I have been denied access to the Concorde simply because the racist legacy of this country has deprived me of the ability to drop seven grand on an uncomfortable three hour flight to the land of the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys.
5: 11th June 1999 – from Transgender Bender; Love Goats-R-Us; Miscellany; Correction; The Jonah Poll:
About three months ago I wrote a column on turning thirty. In an effort to spike up web hits, I suggested that I should spice up my column with such phrases as “XXX Teenage Lesbians in Study Hall” and “Lesbian Love Goats.” My thinking was that the only way to flag down anyone on the information superhighway was to use phrases that catch the attention of search engines.
Well, it didn’t work for the longest time. But now we have been informed that if you type “Lesbian Love Goats” into the search engine Hotbot, lo and behold, the Goldberg File pops up as the only match. I am so proud (and I have cornered the market of alternative life-style goat paramours). The only other GFism that pops up is “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” (3 matches), which must rightly be shared with various Simpsons pages. Still, we search for immortality wherever we can find it.
6: 13th July 1999 – from the title of the article—about Bastille Day:
Happy Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey Day!; The French, They Are Different. and Should Not Be Used as Role Models ; The Poll, Part 3
7: 13th September 1999 – from The Age of Us, as Seen by Herman Hesse; Nuts & Bolts—about Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game (1943), by the German-born Swiss novelist and poet Herman Hesse (1877-1962):
The book opens with future scholars trying to figure out the Feuilletonistic age. Hesse’s future archivists write: “We must confess that we cannot provide an unequivocal definition of those products from which the age takes its name.”
It’s actually a fairly frightening concept that futuristic non-dilettantes will be looking for some Rosetta Stone to decipher what I meant when I used phrases like “women’s prison movie frisson,” “pull my finger,” “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” or “sweating like Jerrold Nadler over his second helping of nuclear buffalo-wings.”
8: 7th February 2000 – from Please Bill, Can I Differ? I’m Beggin’ Ya:
In the last Corrections and Clarifications column — which was much funnier than this drek will be — I wrote, “One fellow, told me that “Phoenician” and “Carthaginian” are synonymous terms, ethnically and as a nationality (much like “French” and “die Hilfe.”) … While I don’t know if this is right, I am sure someone will confirm or dispute this.”
Boy did they. I hadn’t seen a bigger stampede since someone yelled “Free Shrimp!” in a crowded newsroom.
While nobody took offense or even noted my assertion that “the help” in German is synonymous with Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey, they went nuts on this Carthaginian versus Phoenician stuff.
9: 14th March 2000 – from Our, *ahem*, FAQ:
Welcome New Readers.
Here are the Frequently Asked Questions for the Goldberg File:
– Does Goldberg really hate the French, or is that just an act?
He really seems to hate the French, doesn’t he?
– Did he make up the term “Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey?”
No. While he wishes he did, that line is from the Simpsons.
10: 28th April 2000 – from They Blinded Me…With Science:
The real reason I’m distracted is that NRO [= National Review Online] has a Search Engine. […] The guys over at the home office have been having a grand time searching for various food words “pizza,” “muffins,” cheese (as in cheese-eating surrender monkeys) and seeing how many of my columns pop up. Anyway we are extremely excited about it, and I encourage you guys to play with it.
11: 19th May 2000 – from Diamond Dogs:
Our new search engine allows you to see how many times phrases like “lesbian love goat” or “cheese eating surrender monkey” have appeared in our pages.
In Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (G. K. Hall & Co. – Thorndike, Maine, 2000), the American chef Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018) used variants of the phrase when writing:
– about the American chef Patrick Clark (1955-98):
There were a lot of stories, most of them, like most chefs’ gossip, apocryphal. But what we did know about Patrick for sure impressed the hell out of us. He was kind of famous; he was big and black; most important, he was an American, one of us, not some cheese-eating, surrender specialist Froggie.
– about the American chef Scott Bryan:
Like me, Scott is conflicted on the issue of the French. We like to minimize their importance, make fun of their idiosyncrasies. ‘It’s a different system over there,’ he said, talking about the work habits of the surrender-monkey. ‘You start young. For the first ten years of your career, you get your ass kicked. They work you like a dog. So, when you finally get to be a sous-chef, or a chef, your working life is pretty much over.’
The phrase gained currency in 2003 when France refused to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In Wimps, weasels and monkeys – the US media view of ‘perfidious France’, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of 11th February 2003, Gary Younge and Jon Henley wrote of
“Cheese-eating surrender monkeys” – a phrase coined by Bart Simpson but made acceptable in official diplomatic channels around the globe by Jonah Goldberg, a columnist for the rightwing weekly National Review.
As Tim Reid and Charles Bremner explained in French Are Unmoved by US ‘Frog Bashing’, published in The Times (London) of 8th February 2003:
There are three men in the world who would be wise for reasons of personal safety not to show their faces in America: Osama bin Laden, President Saddam Hussein and […] President Chirac.
Middle America, egged on by hostile television networks and editorial writers, has been whipped into a rage against what is perceived as betrayal by the vain and preening French or, as they are now being characterised, “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”.
Incidentally, in the same article, Tim Reid and Charles Bremner mentioned a French translation of cheese-eating surrender monkeys, which they attributed to the French newspaper Le Figaro (Paris):
The [French] media have made much of the US tabloids’ dismissal of France with the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” insult. Le Figaro nicely translated the line, which comes from The Simpsons television cartoon, as: primates capitulards et toujours en quête de fromages.
(Two remarks: The French translation primates capitulards et toujours en quête de fromages translates in turn as surrender and always-in-quest-of-cheeses primates. The phrase cheese-eating surrender monkeys translates literally in French as singes mangeurs de fromage capitulards.)
TEA-DRINKING SURRENDER MONKEYS
Coined after cheese-eating surrender monkeys, the phrase tea-drinking surrender monkeys is a pejorative appellation of the British people. It refers to tea as a prominent feature of British culture and society.
The earliest instance that I have found is from a 2004 discussion thread about Kilmichael Commemoration (November 28) breaks through media silence, published in Indymedia Ireland – Saormheáin Éireann; a person signing themself ‘Barry’ published the following comment on 30th November 2004, in response to an assertion made by ‘Devil dog’:
Now the Dawg […] claims the IRA were on the verge of defeat, “another few weeks and the Brits would have won”.
At the end of May, the commander of British forces in Ireland, General Sir Neville MacCready presented a highly pessimistic report; he was convinced that “unless a peaceful solution has been reached by October, it would not be safe to ask the troops to continue there another winter”. The fear of another winter of dark nights, poor weather and ideal guerilla warfare conditions had the Brits in total despair.
Right wing militarist and Empire fanatic Sir Henry Wilson fully endorsed Macreadys assessment. The Brits offered a truce within a matter of weeks from this military assessment. The Brits dont enter into Truces with a defeated enemy. They crush and humiliate them.
Perhaps Mr Dog reckons these 2 gentlemen were a pair of tea-drinking surrender monkeys, or maybe hes talking out of his tail – yet again.
The second-earliest occurrence of tea-drinking surrender monkeys that I have found is from a 2007 discussion thread about Fury as the hostages sell stories*, published in the News and Current Affairs section of redandwhitekop, “an independent forum for intelligent debate about Liverpool FC”; a person signing themself ‘Harry Wong’ published this comment on 9th April 2007:
Seeking personal profit from being captured on duty and playing along with their captors is demoralising to their comrades, who would be expected to do everything in their power to avoid what the 15 ‘tea-drinking surrender-monkeys’ have done.
(* In 2007, fifteen Royal Marines were captured by Iran and held captives for thirteen days; after their liberation, they were accused of cashing in on the ordeal by selling their stories in a string of lucrative media deals.)
On 29th August 2013, the House of Commons rejected any British involvement in U.S.-led military air strikes against President Bashar Assad of Syria in retaliation for his alleged use of chemical weapons. By contrast, François Hollande, President of the French Republic, embraced the idea of a military intervention. This inspired the British cartoonist Matthew Pritchett (born 1964) to use tea-drinking surrender monkeys—in punning allusion to the above-mentioned 2003 U.S. use of cheese-eating surrender monkeys—in the caption to a cartoon published in The Daily Telegraph (London). BBC News evoked this cartoon on 31st August 2013 in Newspaper review: Papers reflect on Syria aftermath:
There is considerable further reflection on the aftermath of Thursday night’s Commons vote against Britain taking part in military action against Syria.
The Daily Mail homes in on remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry who described France as America’s “oldest ally”.
It calls it a “stunning snub” to Britain and says Mr Kerry appears to have forgotten the anger a decade ago at France’s refusal to support the Iraq war which, it says, led to the French being satirised in the US media as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”.
And on that point, the Matt cartoon on the front of the Daily Telegraph has two Parisians chatting, one says to the other: “The British are just a bunch of tea-drinking surrender monkeys”.
A variant referring to the Danes was coined in the following from 48 hours in… Copenhagen, published in the Irish Independent (Dublin, County Dublin) of 2nd July 2005:
Denmark took only four days to capitulate when the Nazis invaded in 1940: were the Danes herring-eating surrender monkeys or pragmatic rebels? The latter theory is explored at the fascinating Museum of Danish Resistance (00 45 3313 7714; www.frihedsmuseet.dk) on the corner of Esplanaden and Amaliegage (10). It charts the Second World War underground movement, whose members helped to ferry 95% of Denmark’s Jewish population to safety in neutral Sweden.