Cheese-eating Surrender Monkeys

Posted by Mark Peters

The evolution of an insult

The world of politics has seldom been known for it's mature level of discourse: flip-flopper, latte liberal, South Park Republican, wingnut, moonbat, turd blossom, and Joe-mentum are terms that might have been coined by nine-year-olds running from cooties, rather than adults running for office (or writing about the political playground).But some words make a more colorful journey than others.Cheese-eating surrender monkey-originally an insulting and silly term for the French-has spent the last thirteen lucky years climbing to a higher (though not more elevated) branch of the language tree, from which it hoots at liberals and peaceniks of all nationalities. Along with doh, yoink, meh, and Commander Cuckoo-Bananas-a delicious nickname for President Bush-this term sprang from The Simpsons to the civilians, and it's become an established member of our lexicon of political invective.Oddly enough, the epithet-introducing episode ("Round Springfield," April 30, 1995, teleplay by Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia and story by Mike Reiss and Al Jean) contained no French people at all, just a French class taught by Groundskeeper Willie due to budget cuts. Willie's linguistic lesson was brief and to the point: "Bonjour, ye cheese-eatin' surrender monkeys!"Though I'm still waiting for Homer's euphemism learning juice to replace beer in the dictionaries and microbrew menus, almost anything said on The Simpsons catches on at least a little. But much of the credit/blame for the spread of cheese-eating surrender monkeys is due conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, the patron pundit of this term. His National Review articles have included headlines such as "Happy Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey Day!" (July 13, 1999) and "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys From Hell" (April 16, 1999), plus enough other references to stock a zoo.From Willie's lips to Goldberg's columns, the term blossomed into a commonly used instrument of nyah-nyah-ism, eventually becoming palatable to the lactose intolerant, as the cheese became optional. Any crazy kids who oppose the Iraq war have been oft-slammed with the insult, and on Dec. 7, 2006, a New York Post headline added to the term's celebrity: "Surrender monkeys: Iraq panel urges U.S. to give up".One sign of a term's health is the existence of variations, and by that standard, cheese-eating surrender monkeys is robust. Some Googleable alterations are still directly aimed at the French-such as wine-drinking surrender monkeys and French colonialist surrender monkeys-while other writers changed the menu to suit their targets, replacing cheese with borscht, cheeseburger, Cheetos, cod, curry, donut, falafel, fish ‘n chips, gazpacho, goat, granola, horse, humus, kielbasa, kouskous, McDonald's, sauerkraut, tofu, tortilla, velveeta, waffle, whale, and-in reference to the Saddam Hussein/Niger uranium scandal-yellowcake.Though I tend to boo and hiss and tsk-tsk and make voodoo dolls of monkey-calling attack poodles, I kind of love surrender monkey. Maybe I'm cuckoo-bananas, but mega-silliness trumps liberal-bashing for me: If being a non-warmonger makes me a surrender monkey, I'm glad to carry the title. And I'm not the only one, as many recent uses mock the monkey-callers more than the monkey-be-ers, in the original Groundskeeper Willie spirit:"Is Palin taking a dig at the French, those ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys' who wouldn't support the U.S. invasion of Iraq?"(Sept. 13, 2008, Andrew Zajac, The Swamp)"Really now, what could be more fun than a never-ending arms race with complete annihilation of the human species waiting at the end of the Red, white and blue rainbow?  There's certainly no surrender monkeys here!"(Sept. 11, 2008, Ryan Reynolds, The Seward Phoenix Log)"According to W's speeches about holding Iraq to its benchmarks, [Iraq's 18 provinces] were all supposed to be under Iraqi control by now, but someone how or other mini-me [sic] is saying that the Democrats are surrender monkeys."(Sept. 7, 2008, OpEdNews.com)A good insult is like a fine wine dumped in your arch-nemesis' lap, and surrender monkey is a top-shelf slur for the ages-even if the ages are 11 and up. Besides, for religious conservatives, use of the term may be the closest they ever come to biting the nourishing banana of Darwinism, and I would never pooh-pooh such pleasures.I'm a surrender monkey and a word monkey, not a buzzkill monkey.(This article was adapted from a chapter of Yada Yada Doh! 111 TV Words That Made the Leap from the Screen to Society).