Learn English – What does “pay you out” mean


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?

Best Answer

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).