De quoi il se mêle?
dkwah eel smell? Click below to hear this.*
He has some nerve!
This is only one of many ways in French to express such indignation! We’ll have another coming up in a few weeks; keep your eyes open for it!
And this is only one of several translations for this phrase. This is what the subtitle writer used in La Délicatesse.
Mêler means to mix, mingle, tangle, and other words that convey some sort of blending. More literally, our phrase means What’s he getting mixed up with? But the fact of the matter is that you already know what he’s mixed up in, and it’s none of his business. In French, it’s a rhetorical question.
And speaking of questions, you see what a useful word quoi is, contentless though it may be. (I suppose all question words are contentless by their very nature, the whole point being that you are asking for the missing information…) Yesterday we had en quoi (in what), and today de quoi of what.
But the set expression for today is se mêler de, to get mixed up in something or to take it upon oneself to do something. So in spite of the preposition de, we translate in. Go figure.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: