Interpretations:Au Contraire

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I think this song is about how even famous people are just like everyone else and make the same mishaps just like everyone else


I think this song has to do with different cultures, and how people react differently to differnet things in different cultures. This is used by different cultured people: David Bowie (England), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (19th-20th Century America), Jodie Foster (America), Johann Sebastian Bach (Germany), Mahatma Gandhi (India). And they are retorted by a different culture (French) by saying "Au Contraire". I guess it's kind've hard to explain further than that. --Ralph 11:56, 3 September 2006 (UTC)


I think it's a pretty straightforward lyric (for TMBG) -- just some silly fun contradicting people who like to think they're something special, even Gandhi himself! The repeated "Right On"s at the end are a reference to Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin On," of course.


The song is about how great people aren't good at everyday things. FDR didn't know what clothes matched, Gandhi wasn't too good at poker, and apparently David Bowie doesn't know that people below can't hear him in his airplane(?).

But a boat is the best hand of the three, and generally not a hand to sneeze at. If Gandhi loses that hand, it's because somebody got lucky.

I'm not sure if FDR is being ridiculed or not. He cries, "This tie CLASHES with my hat" to which he is told, "Au contraire." So what does that mean? "Sorry, your clothes really DO match"? On the other hand, David Bowie is blasted. Linnell evidently dislikes Bowie's chops. The poker game reminds of that episode on Next Generation where Data plays cards with Einstein, Newton and Hawking. --An orangutan


For those as confused as me by "Don't you dig my chops": this seems to be American slang (it wasn't in my English slang dictionary) and the following is the only explanation I have found on the web.

Musicians tend to use the word "chops" in its original meaning, referring to the lips or mouth. Thus, "busting your chops" means to play your instrument to the point of overplaying it, especially if it's a wind or brass instrument, as in, "I busted my chops on that piece." It's also used to denote skill: "He has the chops," or "It takes good chops to play this piece." "Chops" is also applied to musicians who don't play wind or brass instruments, though it always sounds strange to my ear to hear someone say of a drummer, "He has the chops."

This song is a simple celebration of the deflationary power we all have when we choose to disagree. No matter how apparently untouchable an icon might be (Gandhi being the epitome), a simple two word phrase is capable of cutting it down. As usual with John Linnell, it's language that provides this miracle. The music matches the cute cheek of the French phrase, something lost immediately when translated to "on the contrary". (French borrowings into English very often capture an attitude of some kind that English lacks a word for. Joie de vivre is another obvious example.)

So it's not really right to say that Linnell doesn't like Bowie's face. By that logic he dislikes Gandhi's poker playing (whereas Gandhi probably never played poker, and even if he did, how could JL dislike it?). What the song has fun with is simply that anyone, anytime, can be cut down a little by a gentle rebuff. In that sense, everyone, even Jodie Foster, is just another "Person Man". (P.S. Those mad right-wingers who renamed French Fries "Freedom Fries" obviously didn't appreciate that ancient French ability to say "Au contraire".) - bb


Sometimes people will disagree with your vanity Sometimes people will disagree with your style Sometimes people will disagree with how you play the game They may not give any good reasons But they many people will agree with them. - Gator


George Carlin, in his "Hair Poem", famously rhymed "Au contraire" with "Mon frere". Maybe Linnell was channeling old George.


Could Jodie Foster playing poker have something to do with the movie Maverick with Mel Gibson, where Foster plays a wild-west ladylike Poker Player? --pacdude


I want to know who beat Ghandi, and what hand they had. And Linnell must have a very poor opinion of Jodie's skill at poker; what on earth was she doing staying in with 2 pairs when the action got that rich?


Re: French borrowings into English like Joie de vivre... or of course savoir faire.


Something occured to me the other day when I was listening to the song, because at the very same time the song was playing, I saw someone walking down the street that looked like a famous person (I forget who), but on another glance wasn't. I suddenly realized that all these famous people named in the song might not be famous people at all, but just normal people who resemble them. -- AgentParsec


The song is a parody of those people who like to criticize celebrities for minor blunders or silly mistakes. "Oh, but Gandi made some racist statements," says the critic. "Yeah, and he wrongly thought he had a full house once too!" replies Linnell.


D had 4 Jacks (=Johns) in 2004 but W (little deuce Van) won.--M. Fudd 20:01, 21 Dec 2005 (EST)


I think that it is saying that everyone is wrong about everything. --Nehushtan 13:41, 21 Mar 2006 (CST)

Or that everyone is wrong about something. -- Crummy
But in all of the cases the singer is the one who is actually wrong. maybe it's about who's right and wrong depends on your perspective? -- Rilom

I recall a Peanuts cartoon from way back where Snoopy and Woodstock are haveing a discussion. Woodstock keeps saying 'au contraire' to every point that Snoopy makes, and this frustrates the other one. I think the song makes the same point. Linnell may have seen the cartoon and been inspired by it. -- pduggie 21 Dec 2006



Wake up and smell the catfood[edit | edit source]

They like breathing new life into trite phrases and cliches. The little scenarios seem to be excuses for doing that. This song features "hate to rain on your parade," "wash that notion from your hair," and all the variations on "au contraire": "quite the opposite, in fact," "Hate to contradict you," etc.

E. A. Poe


Every time I hear this song I just imagine a group of stereotyped mean French people contradicting people of different nationalities just to feel superior.