Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I came across the following passage of text in one of the original Thomas the Tank Engine stories, and realised there was a phrase in there that I didn't understand.

"Be careful with the coaches, James" said Edward, "they don't like being bumped. Trucks are silly and noisy; they need to be bumped and taught to behave, but coaches get cross and will pay you out."

James the Red Engine, Rev W. Awdry (1948)

So what does "pay you out" mean?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It means ‘take revenge’, as in this quotation from William Thackeray in 1849: ‘You see if I don't pay you out after school—you sneak, you.’ It was still being used well into the twentieth century. It is appropriate in the work of the Rev. Awdry, but seems to be in decline, as this nGram shows (subject to the ususal cautions about nGrams).

share|improve this answer
    
This would be one example of the sort of disagreements over these stories between those who would modernise the wordings and those who would keep them as they are. –  Jon Hanna Jan 27 '13 at 17:53
    
I suppose a glossary might be an acceeptable compromise. –  Barrie England Jan 27 '13 at 17:54
    
Not sure that would work well with the primary target demographic. –  Jon Hanna Jan 27 '13 at 17:59
    
"Well, actually son, that's not quite the end. I've still got to read you the glossary." –  Urbycoz Jan 28 '13 at 9:30
add comment

It's a somewhat "dated" form that would normally be expressed today as pay you back, meaning retaliate, settle the score.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.