J’en étais quitte pour un avertissement.

J’en étais quitte pour un avertissement.

zhah nay-tay keet poo ruh naa-vair-tee-SMAH. Click below to hear this. 

I got off with a warning.

This is part of the tale you will tell at the dinner table. It’s the sad tale of how you almost got a traffic ticket. You’ll tell how you were driving within the speed limit, carefully coming to a full stop at that useless stop sign at the corner, and otherwise being a good safe driver, when the officer pulled you over and claimed you failed to signal for your turn. You were certain you had flipped that lever. That’s when he checked your rear turn signal and told you it was burnt out.

I could ticket you for that, he pointed out, but I was behind you for several blocks and your driving is exemplary. So just make sure you get it fixed. If you get stopped again and it’s not fixed, they’ll throw the book at you.

Ouf, you breathed, since you are a French speaker. That’s Whew in English. And you tell your family, J’en étais quitte pour un avertissement. 

So here, for all those other readers out there who aren’t French speakers, is how that phrase works. You may need it someday in recounting some entirely different adventure. Un avertissement is a warning. It’s what you do to avert a danger or to inform people that something is happening. An advertisement does the same thing and comes from the same root, except that the only danger there is that someone else will get those cute red shoes at the sale before you do.

Être quitte is to be free (of a debt, a worry, a burden, and so on). En stands for of it (de la dette, de mon souci, de ce fardeau, to translate the three examples in the previous sentence). It goes before the verb. Pour is for. In this case, for the price of. That is, there is a certain cost to freeing yourself from your debt. It could be anything–a fee, your self-respect, an agreement to work for free for a certain amount of  time. In today’s story, the cost is the knowledge that you are now under an obligation to get that turn signal fixed, and before you drive again. No matter how busy you are. No matter that you were planning to sell the car next week. That’s the burden you now bear. I understand the service department has some times available tomorrow. Did you want to make an appointment?

Alternate audio file link: jen_etais_quitte_pour_un_avertissement

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