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1 Ishmael: Why do you want to get me fired from my pizza delivery job?
2 Martian 2: Well, we need to do some fresh experiments on humans. But abducting them leads to all sorts of trouble.
3 Martian 2: So we're going to set it up as a clinical trial and pay poor students to volunteer.
4 Ishmael: And you need me to be poor…?
4 Martian 2: How else will you sign up for the pittance we'll be offering?
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In modern English, a pittance is a very small or inadequate payment for something. Originally, in medieval English, a pittance was a sum donated to the church to provide extra food to the poor, a charitable gift paid out of piety. A pittance could also refer to the portion of food so paid for by donations. The word "piety" provides the clue to the etymology of "pittance". It comes from the Old French word pitance, which means both piety and pity - related concepts with very similar words in modern English.
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