What is the meaning of 'my mama done told me'?


In no way can I catch the meaning of 'My mama done told me'... )

It's from Katie Melua's cover of the song 'Blues in the night':

My mamma done told me,
when I was in pigtails,
My mamma done told me, Hon,
A man is a two-face
he'll give you the big eye,
And when the sweet talking's done.
A man is a two-face,
A worrisome thing who'll leave you to sing,
The blues in the night

Please, give me a hand.


Posted 2015-03-13T00:13:17.067

Reputation: 199

Completive or simply intensitive- a politer version of "My mama sure as hell told me..." See also: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/389375/is-there-a-name-for-the-southern-verb-form-done-past-tense – Adam – 2017-08-08T15:49:19.173

Please describe any research you've done so far to try to determine the meaning. Also, please provide more context: additional quoted text and a link to the source if one is available. – pyobum – 2015-03-13T00:30:53.823

4This construction, done + (past or past participle - the Standard English distinction between the two is not always observed) is characteristic of Southern US and Afro-American dialects. It is completive: it emphasizes that the action was entirely performed. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-03-13T00:31:34.320



Interpreting just: "my mama done told me"

This is a slang or ungrammatical way to say "My mama told me" or "My mama has told me." My first thought was that this line was from country music because that style often uses slang, perhaps to connect better with speakers from a certain region who actually talk like that. It could just fit better with the musical rhythms to use this structure, too.


Posted 2015-03-13T00:13:17.067

Reputation: 69

1This is actually neither slang nor ungrammatical, rather it is an example of a colloquialism from a particular dialect. Slang would be calling the police "the fuzz" and ungrammatical would be something like "I walked their" (OP's phrase is perfectly grammatical in the context of the dialect). – Era – 2015-12-03T20:00:10.380


It's the first line of a very famous 1941 song (it's regarded as a member of the "Great American Songbook), Blues in the Night, by Arlen and Mercer. It was written to be sung by an African-American prisoner in a movie called Hot Nocturne, and was so popular the movie was retitled after the song. Here's the scene.

– StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-03-13T00:43:44.803

Thanks a lot for your help. Now I think I can turn it into Russian adequately. I suppose 'done told' is to emphasize the singer did not follow her mother's advice.) – gerol2000 – 2015-03-13T17:10:21.593

@gerol2000 "Done told" is used specifically because the song is written as a blues song, which genre generally uses the African-American dialect of English. As a choice of verb "done told" per se has nothing to do with whether the singer follows her mother's advice. It is the song as a whole that implies this. Consider: My mama "done told" me to stay away from drink, and I done have ever since; while this sentence may not be idiomatic for the dialect, it shows that "done told" does not have to imply anything about following or not following the advice.

– None – 2015-03-13T19:05:27.797


It is from song. It may not be grammatically correct but it can be used in certain contexts. As for its meaning, it just shows "completeness" of the action. It can be used to represent the situation like:

"My mama had told me (already)".

Vaibhav k.

Posted 2015-03-13T00:13:17.067

Reputation: 39

FWIW, this native speaker doesn't hear any implication that the advice was not followed. – Adam – 2017-08-08T15:49:33.323

I am very grateful for your support. What do you think about the above supposition of mine that she probably didn't follow her mother's advice? – gerol2000 – 2015-03-13T17:14:09.293

Ya.It mostly implies that the speaker didn't follow her mothers advice like, "My mamma done told me not to eat ice cream." We can consider above sentence when the girl had a ice cream and then she is telling to someone that her mama told her not to have an ice cream BUT she had. – Vaibhav k. – 2015-03-20T07:10:22.380


It simply means "my mother told me," with maybe a slight increase in emphasis by the use of "done," but I don't believe anything else at all is inferred. This usage would be extremely rare if not nearly extinct these days.

Doug Chase

Posted 2015-03-13T00:13:17.067

Reputation: 217

2This kind of language is still very much in use in regional dialects in the US. – Era – 2015-12-03T20:01:46.127