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Malin: Smart or Evil?

The adjective malin appears in two recent videos on Yabla, and it has two very different meanings in each. In the last segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté, we finally get to the bottom of the spooky occurrences in Harold and Claire's apartment, thanks to Harold's clever investigations:

 

Mais cette fois-ci, le couple s'est attaqué à un adversaire plus malin que les autres.

But this time, the couple tackled an opponent who was more clever than the others.

Caption 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Notre appartement est hanté - Part 8

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

And in Lionel's visit to Toul Cathedral, we learn about the cathedral's gargoyles and what they represent: 

 

Ici là-bas, on a une représentation, du diable, du malin, d'un démon.

Here, over there, we have a representation of the devil, of the evil one, of a demon.

Captions 27-28, Lionel - La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2

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While malin is most often used as an adjective meaning "smart," it can also have darker undertones, especially when used as a noun. In the second example, the tour guide uses it as a synonym for the devil, but un malin can also just refer to a trickster or a wily person. And don't forget that "smart" can have a negative connotation in English too:

 

Ça sera peut-être d'avoir l'air malin dans l'interview, hein.

It might be looking like a smart aleck in the interview, you know?

Caption 21, Micro-Trottoirs - Un rêve récurrent?

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Bien sûr. Et nous aussi on voudrait du sucre, gros malin!

Of course. And us too, we would like some sugar, wise guy!

Caption 14, Il était une fois... la vie - 14. La bouche et les dents - Part 3

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Ne fais pas le malin avec moi. 
Don't get smart with me. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Note that the feminine form of malin isn't maline, but maligne:

 

Et même, très maligne, ma petite Clémentine!

And even very clever, my little Clémentine!

Caption 51, Manon et Clémentine - Conjugaison du verbe être

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You'll also see this -in/-igne ending in the word bénin/bénigne (benign, minor), which is actually an antonym of malin/maligneune tumeur maligne is a malignant tumor, and une tumeur bénigne is a benign tumor.  

 

Manu le Malin is a famous French hardcore DJ. You can check out some interviews with him on Yabla. 

 

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Vocabulary

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