Je lui ai rendu la monnaie de sa pièce.

Je lui ai rendu la monnaie de sa pièce.

zhuh lwee ay rah-dew lah muh-naid sah peeESS. Click below to hear this.*

I gave her tit for tat.

She’s not too polite. She made some snippy comment to me, and I returned it in kind. Another translation would be I paid her back in her own coin, but I’ve never heard anyone say that, so it must not be a very common expression. Maybe it only lives in dictionaries.

It is, however, closer to the French expression. Je lui ai rendu la monnaie de sa pièce literally means I gave her the change from her coin.

French has a number of words for money. Usually, it’s l’argent, which also means silver, but la monnaie is change, as in what you get back when you buy something. It never means money in general. Une pièce is any single coin, without specifying its value.

So when you buy something, you are entitled to receive that item plus the return of any excess in the amount you paid for it–in other words, your change. In the same way, if she chooses to insult me, she is “buying” a response from me. She gets her own peculiar form of satisfaction for her rudeness, and in addition, she gets a change in my attitude towards her, which may include my insulting her in reply.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

je_lui_ai_rendu_la_monnaie_de_sa_piece.mp3

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