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?

2 Answers 2


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).

  • 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
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 17:53
  • I suppose a glossary might be an acceeptable compromise. Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 17:54
  • Not sure that would work well with the primary target demographic.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 17:59
  • "Well, actually son, that's not quite the end. I've still got to read you the glossary."
    – Urbycoz
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 9:30

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

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