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Ce que femme veut: A French expression you may hear today

With politicians Marine Le Pen and Anne Hidalgo both advancing their presidential campaigns this weekend, you may be hearing the expression ce que femme veut. Here, we explore and explain its origins...

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today Pic: The Connexion

Yesterday (September 12), Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris since 2014 and member of the Parti socialiste formally announced her candidature for the 2022 presidential elections.

Read more: Socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo to run for French presidency 2022

This means that she may be contending with Marine Le Pen, president of the Rassemblement national (Far Right) since 2011 who is also in the news after handing over the reins of the party so as to give her time to run her election campaign.

Read more: Far-right Marine Le Pen launches presidential bid on theme of freedom

If either politician is successful, they will become France’s first female president.

With the stakes so high and tensions due to rise, you may see or hear the popular expression ce que femme veut.

This phrase is the first part of a longer proverb, ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut but is often said on its own.

Literally translated as ‘what woman wants, God wants’, the term is used to express the idea that a woman always gets her way.

One of the earliest uses of the expression in French can be found in dramatist Alfred de Musset’s 1838 novel The Son of Titien.

It is also noted in the 1789 collection Matinées sénonoises, ou Proverbes françois.

Some sources argue, however, that the original proverb was as follows: Mais ce que femme veut, si Dieu ne le veut pas, le diable du moins y aide.

This would be translated as, ‘But what a woman wants, if God doesn’t want it, the devil at least helps’.

Having become so popular, the phrase ce que femme veut was used as the title of multiple films in the 20th century, including by directors Walter Lang in 1936 and Gérard Jumel in 1993.

Over time, it has developed several variations.

For example, an alternative used in the Picardy region of France is Ce que femme veut, Dieu en tremble meaning, ‘What a woman wants, God trembles’.

Another variant is ce que une femme veut est écrit dans le ciel which means, ‘what a woman wants is written in the sky’. The English equivalent might be ‘written in the stars’.

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