Did someone say they’re going to give you a 'taste of your own medicine' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
The short answer is:
For example, if you never pick up after your dog on a walk, some could say you would be getting a ‘taste of your own medicine’ if you stepped in someone else’s dog waste when out on a walk.
When someone is given a ‘taste of their own medicine,’ it means that they are receiving unpleasant or harsh treatment that they had previously given to other people.
It can also be used as a way to express the desire to get retaliation against someone else, as in:
“Let’s give them a ‘taste of their own medicine.’
For example, let’s say that a person regularly steals candy bars from the corner store. If someone stole their wallet, you could say that they were getting a:
‘Taste of their own medicine.’
The idiom ‘taste of your own medicine’ is said to come from one of Aesop’s Fables. Aesop’s Fables are a collection of fables credited to a slave and storyteller named Aesop.
Some of the most famous of Aesop’s Fables includes:
In a story about a con artist that sells medicine that he claims will cure anything even though he knows it doesn’t work. When he falls ill himself, people give him the medicine he has been hawking. Of course, he gets a ‘taste of his own medicine’ because he knows that the cure-all he was pitching doesn’t actually work.
Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that 'taste of your own medicine,’ ‘taste of their own medicine,’ and ‘taste of his own medicine’ all started becoming more widely used around 1880.
In the 1903 publication The Interference of Patricia, we find an early use of the idiom:
“Oh!” cried Patricia, vehemently. “You never counted on your own treachery coming home to you! You have been ruined by the very methods you have used to ruin others. You induced people to trust you that you might trade on their weaknesses and rob them. Now you have got a taste of your own medicine. The two you most trusted betrayed you, and you’ve only got what you deserved.”
Here’s another example from the 1888 work By and By:
“I thought, now, madam, I’ll give you a taste of your own medicine. I said, “Well, you have quoted the apostle Paul, but he does not stand so high in our esteem as the great St. Peter, the founder of the Roman Church, who never was married; yet, even out of the writings of your own selected apostle Paul, I will show you that priests ought not to marry.””
Finally, let’s look at a selection from The Western Galaxy about Shakespeare’s play Hamlet:
“Hamlet pinks him twice, and then, after a scratch, in a scuffle gets hold of his naked and poisoned rapier and gives Laertes a taste of his own medicine. Laertes shows, ere he is touched, that he regrets the cowardly advantage he has taken, and with his dying breath confesses his error and begs Hamlet’s forgiveness. He has much of the fire of Hamlet but none of his versatility, his philosophy, or his elevation.”
How would 'taste of your own medicine' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
When someone says they are going to give you a ‘taste of your own medicine,’ they are saying that an unpleasant or negative behavior that you have been dishing out to others is going to be coming back your way. For example, if you were always criticizing people based on how they looked, you would be ‘tasting your own medicine’ if someone else criticized how you looked.
Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!
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