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I have heard the following dialogue in the TV series Marseille:

  • Mayor: Regarde sus ses listes s'il y a pas un candidat qui habite hors de Marseille.
  • Advisor: Il y a Godzale. Il a sa boîte mais il est domicilié à Aix. (...)
  • Advisor: On se garde le coup, on verra si on s'en sert.

Context: The current mayor of Marseille is trying to be reelected and he has just gone to the second round of the elections with another candidate. He's discussing the beginning of the second round with an advisor and they have the dialogue above.

I don't quite understand this system of lists in France municipal elections, but it's clear to me the mayor wants to use some loophole in the election system and the help of someone who is registered in Marseille, but does not live there to get more votes.

What I don't understand is the expression "se garder le coup". What does it mean here? Literally, it means "to keep the blow/knock/shot" (just some of the many meanings of "coup"), but that does not make sense. The English subtitle says "to bear that in mind", but I'd like to confirm that is what the expression mean and understand better what is the underlying idea. I have searched it in WR and Larousse dictionaries and haven't found anything.

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    Are you sure it's not "On se le garde sous le coude" which means to keep someone/something in mind for a future use? – vc 74 Apr 4 at 6:46
  • I'm not able to hear the word "sous" and the French subtitle says "garde le coup". If anyone wants to check, this is in 34:10 (or 7:30 before end) of episode 6 of season 01. – Alan Evangelista Apr 4 at 9:18
  • I have just checked, and surprisingly, Depardieu says indeed "on se garde le coup". – Greg Apr 4 at 9:29
  • Not really linked to French language, but I think the mayor may have something else in mind then: I understand he wants to negotiate something with a contestant (I guess to merge their lists in a political alliance for the 2nd round of the election, or to have his support for the 2nd round), so if he asks if a candidate on this contestant's list has their address in another district, maybe he wants to use this to put pressure in the negotiations. This is illegal, so if it is revealed, this candidacy will be invalid. – Greg Apr 4 at 10:15
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Se garder le coup is not an idiom. The meaning can be understood on the basis of the dialogue and what the mayor has in mind.

Se garder means here to keep for later, for one's personal use. Ex: je me suis gardé un bouteille de ce champagne pour le Nouvel An.

Coup has indeed many possible meanings, here it should be understood in the vague meaning of an act. A coup can be a clever act in a game (un coup de poker, le coup du chapeau in football, etc.), or a nasty blow to an opponent (un coup bas, Trump a mis un coup à Clinton). A coup is also a shot, with a firearm (fusil à deux coups, tirer un coup, etc), that can also be used metaphorically. All of these meanings can work here in the context of political rivalries, tricks and low blows.

In any case, the general meaning is clear: the mayor is not willing to use this trick for now, but decides to yet keep it up his sleeve in case they need it later.

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