Réponse, réplique, riposte.
ray-pawss, ray-pleek, ree-PUST. Click below to hear this.*
Answer, answer, answer.
No, I’m not nagging you for a reply. I’ll leave that to people who issue invitations embellished with a hopeful RSVP, which means répondez, s’il vous plaît. They really do mean it, you know.
Une réponse is something you say as a result of something someone else says. It can be an answer to a question, a question for clarification, or a second question. It can be a snort of derision, a complicit laugh, a wan smile…as long as it communicates something that relates to what was previously said.
Then what is une réplique? It’s an answer to an answer. He asks a question, you answer, he comes back with another answer. And une riposte? Ah, those are the most fun. They are sharp, even acerbic replies to someone’s statement. They are the kind of quick and clever remark we all wish we could master, and the stuff of vicious arguments and witty but heartfelt conversation alike.
Good friends may discuss politics, the origin of the universe, or the merits of a legal argument, tossing out one riposte after another. If they respect each other, they won’t come to blows over it. But beware the riposte flung down by a stranger or a drunk. Best to walk away.
Just don’t walk away from this distinction among synonyms. There will be a quiz!
*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: