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Themen

Maldonne: Make no mistake!

In her song "Diesel" (extremely popular with Yabla viewers!), Elea Lumé declares: 

Et si il y a eu maldonne, je me fais mon propre prud'homme

And if there was a mistake, I'll take responsibility for it

Captions 33–34, Elea Lumé: Diesel

When we are playing cards, la donne is "the deal." It comes from the verb donner, that very common French verb that means "to give." It also means "to deal," which is not hard to see since cards are "given out" to the players. Sometimes the dealer (le donneur—literally, "the giver") screws up, and hands too many or too few cards to one or more of the players. In the poker rooms of Paris this is known as a fausse donne (false deal), mauvaise donne (bad deal), or maldonne—which we get when we preface donne (deal) with mal ("bad" or "wrong"): a "wrong deal." In English the common term for all of these is "misdeal."

Cards are ripe metaphors for life, as anyone who's ever been "dealt a bad hand" or suffered "the luck of the draw" knows. In French, the phrase il y a maldonne has drifted from the cards-specific "there is a misdeal" to the more general "there is a mistake." 

A quick aside about another of Elea's lyrical selections here: if you look up prud'homme in the dictionary, you find that it is a member of a labor court, one which decides disputes between management and workers. So when Elea says je me fais mon propre prud'homme (literally something like, "I'll be my own jury"), she is saying that she'll assume full responsibility; she's not going to take it to a third party for help—she'll stand on her own.

Besides signaling a mistake, il y a maldonne takes on another metaphorical meaning: "there is a misunderstanding." The exuberant chanteuse Cassandre expresses a negated variation of the phrase when she sings:

Mais non, y a pas maldonne / C'est super romantique!

But no, there's no misunderstanding / It's super romantic!

Caption 33, Vous avez du talent: Cassandre – Je te saoule 

So make no mistake! As in English, French words or phrases often evolve from literal to metaphorical meanings, and their meaning can change based on their context. Getting to know these subtleties is not a bad deal at all!

Vocabulary

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Untertitel 33, 34
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