What's the meaning of the expression "to make amends" in the texts below:

Text 1:

You have to learn from mistakes and grow as an individual so you dont make the same mistakes twice. You can always try to make amends for past mistakes, pray God's forgiveness, and become the person you prefer to be.

Text 2:

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

In the first example (Text 1) I found many different translations in Portuguese that makes sense and could be used but many of them have slightly different meanings and I'm not sure which one would be the more indicated here.

In this specific case does it relate to try to get someone's forgiveness for something you did in the past?

Regarding the Text 2 I have no idea what's the meaning of "make amends" in the context. No translation seems to make sense.

One last question: in Text 1 where it's said pray God's forgiveness the correct wouldn't be pray for God's forgiveness?

  • 1
    In the first text "making amends" is generally about what you say, depending on whether you consider that forgiveness should come from the slighted person, a deity, or oneself, and on the circumstances. In the second text, its use is poetic rhyme, or poetic licence in thinking you can pray for a fast car. – Weather Vane Jun 26 '19 at 23:07

make amends (v): to do something to correct a mistake that one has made or a bad situation that one has caused

Your first example of this phrase is fairly standard, and so requires no additional explanation. You are correct, and it should be "pray for God's forgiveness". I assume it's an unintentional error.

Janis Joplin's use of "make amends" is not standard. It does imply that the speaker feels that her lack of a Mercedes Benz is some kind of personal fault, which she needs to make up for through divine intervention -- but, it's more likely that Joplin chose "amends" because it rhymes (more or less) with "Benz", and so fits the song.

Overall, the song is not meant to be taken literally. It is a satire of consumerism, and possibly of those who think religion and prayer are best used to beg for material wealth.

Side note: This was one of the last songs Joplin recorded before dying of a drug overdose in October, 1970 at age 27.

  • Thanks for the explanations. Sometimes it's very difficult to know if a word that is used in a song really makes sense or, as you said, shouldn't be taken literally. Regarding you side note, I remember when she died, I was a boy then, it was very sad. Many others died the same way that period and as far as I remember some of them at the same age. – Itamar Jun 27 '19 at 3:08

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