January 30, 2013

You know you're really old...

... when the Urban Dictionary "Urban Word of the Day" distinguishes 2 definitions, one for young hip folk and one for old businessmen and you've never even noticed the old-businessman one. The word — phrase, actually, but it's the height of oldness to be pedantic about that — is "out of pocket."

And, no, the old businessman meaning is not paid for with one's own money, like "out of pocket expenses." The new old meaning is unreachable by the normal means of communication (which, I suppose, is the coverage of a cell phone network).

The supposedly hip and young newer meaning seems to be just another way to say out of control.

49 comments:

EMD said...

The new old meaning gets used at work a lot, and it's supremely stupid sounding.

I'm going to start using the new new meaning to confuse everyone.

Pettifogger said...

Holy moly! "Paid for with one's own money" is the only meaning for the phrase I was aware of

bagoh20 said...

What use would people now days have for a term involving your own money, whatever that is.

BDNYC said...

I'm 30 years old, and before a couple weeks ago, I had never heard it used in any sense other than expenses one must pay out of pocket. I recently heard an old businessman use it to mean unreachable. (I dislike the usage; it's lifeless corporate speak.) I have NEVER heard it used to mean out of control.

edutcher said...

Petti and bag are both right.

but I'd never heard of the hipster one. either.

Shanna said...

I've heard it in the 'old businessman' sense many, many times at work. 'I'm gonna be out of pocket tomorrow'.

I'm going to start using the new new meaning to confuse everyone.

That sounds like fun.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I knew a guy who firmly believed that having "deep pockets" meant you were cheap because you couldn't reach all the way down to grab the money.

I didn't see anything to be gained from further discussion.

David said...

My personal favorite was the phrase "he crapped in his hat." That meant a big, consequential mistake. Very descriptive.

EDH said...

I believe the business usage Shanna describes is "in/out of the pocket".

It may be fairly recent, not "old businessman", and derive from grandiose musical and sports metaphors.

Urban Dictionary: "In the pocket". A complimentary reference describing a live musical performance, akin to an athlete being in "the zone".

I would assume the opposite is "out of the pocket", not "out of pocket".

Conversely, "in the pocket" is an old term that refers to corruption of one's duty, whether a politician or the press that's suppose to cover them fairly and objectively.

Sollozzo: Bene, Don Corleone. I need a man who has powerful friends. I need a million dollars in cash. I need, Don Corleone, all of those politicians that you carry around in your pocket, like so many nickels and dimes.

Michelle Dulak said...

What Pettifogger said. I've never heard either of these usages, and surely "paid for with one's own money" is the primary meaning. We certainly heard it used that way often enough in the debates over PPACA.

BarrySanders20 said...

Why is it surprising that a phrase has different meanings when used in a different context?

If someone says "I'll be out of pocket" that cannot mean that he makes himself available for payment of expenses.

Likewise, "I have out of pocket expenses" does not mean his future temmporary unavailability has already caused him to incur reimburseable costs.

Of course, after being out of pocket and away from the office, he might have out of pocket expenses that are reimburseable, especially if he entertained clients at the strip club.

Ann Althouse said...

"The pocket" has a football association, but I don't know if that's relevant here.

EMD said...

I would assume the opposite is "out of the pocket", not "out of pocket".

Nope. In the parlance of our times, it's out-of-pocket.

No 'the.' Believe me. I know all too well.

EMD said...

"The pocket" has a football association, but I don't know if that's relevant here.

Businesspeople often have to "scramble" to get things done?

BarrySanders20 said...

I was out of the pocket while on the Facebook and the Twitter and the You Tube and the Althouse.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Remember, this is Sandra Fluke's demographic: when they want to say "paid for with one's own money" the phrase they use is "denied access".

Harold said...

First time I heard out of pocket used was in an overheard conversation on Greyhound bus between a prostitute and truck driver. She was telling the trucker how her pimp fractured her skull for going out of pocket to meet a 'date' on the side.

Harold said...

Crap meant to say this was back in 1989 on my way to to Ft. Riley Kansas.

Darrell said...

Of course, people who rely on a mostly joke site like the Urban Dictionary for definitions are "out of socket."

Shanna said...

Nope. In the parlance of our times, it's out-of-pocket.

No 'the.'


Yep. I don't know where it came from but people just started saying it.

Smilin' Jack said...

"Out of pocket" means broke:

out of pocket
adv.
1. Without funds or assets: a traveler who was caught out of pocket.
2. In a state of having experienced a loss, especially a financial one.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language


Other usages are stupid.

Darrell said...

What were some of the other modern definitions that the good readers there contributed (I didn't look)?

11. When your dick pops out of the hole you've cut to play pocket pool. Dude! You are so out of pocket! You're giving the rest of us an inferiority complex, and I think those two gay guys in the back are already gaping!

bagoh20 said...

"Out of pocket" in business means spent money that is not borrowed or somehow a passed on expense. It's not rolled into some larger deal or amortized.

Darrell said...

"Out of pocket" means broke

Not in the world with the blue sky. Since there were company expense accounts, it's meant to pay with your own personal money. I never heard it used any other way.

EDH said...

EMD said...
Businesspeople often have to "scramble" to get things done?

As well as "break a few eggs".

Rob said...

"Out of pocket" meaning unavailable long predates cell phones. I distinctly remember hearing it used that way by a colleague in 1976.

Darrell said...

"Out of pocket" meaning unavailable long predates cell phones. I distinctly remember hearing it used that way by a colleague in 1976.

If we were playing liar's poker, I'd be shouting "Liar!" about now. In the era of landlines, where would the "pocket" reference come from? And for wireless (broadcast) transmissions, it was always "out of range."

Michael said...

"Out of pocket" has always had two meanings even for old people who were not senile or stuck in a teaching job. "I will be out of pocket for the next few days" is an expression I have heard for forty years. It obviously means something other than "I had to come out of pocket for the wine."

I am a little surprised that this is a surprise to our hostess or many of the commenters here.

Triangle Man said...

I have only seen the use of "out of pocket" meaning unreachable in spy novels, not in business. If an asset or source is out of pocket it implies that they are either out of contact or have switched sides. This predates cell phones and comes from the use of "in our pocket" to mean that someone has been recruited to provide information.

Larry J said...

Darrell said...
"Out of pocket" means broke

Not in the world with the blue sky. Since there were company expense accounts, it's meant to pay with your own personal money. I never heard it used any other way.


As others have noted, I've heard it used in the way you mention plus "I'll be out of pocket tomorrow", meaning you won't be able to reach me. Both are legitimate uses of the phrase. In football, sometimes the defense can flush the quarterback "out of the pocket" which is a slightly different usage.

All of this points to the difficulty to teaching someone to understand figures of speech when English isn't their native language. My wife was born overseas and has asked me many times to explain some idiomatic expression like "I'm pulling your leg." Taken literally, most of them make no sense at all. But then, her native language doesn't use personal pronouns, so she frequently mixes up "he" and "she" in conversation.

virgil xenophon said...

I'm in agreement with Darrell & Michael. I've heard the term used as "being unavailable"/"on the road" since at least the early 70s if not before. I have an ex-college roommate (class of '66) and fraternity brother who uses that phrase that way all the time..

Michelle Dulak said...

Larry J.,

All of this points to the difficulty to teaching someone to understand figures of speech when English isn't their native language. My wife was born overseas and has asked me many times to explain some idiomatic expression like "I'm pulling your leg." Taken literally, most of them make no sense at all. But then, her native language doesn't use personal pronouns, so she frequently mixes up "he" and "she" in conversation.

There is so much in English that is idiomatic, but that we don't even recognize as such. I wonder what a non-native speaker would make, for example, of the exhortation on every tube of toothpaste: "Squeeze tube from the bottom and flatten it as you go up"?

KLDAVIS said...

I use it, though it does make me cringe...it seems to lend an air of legitimacy to the fact that you're not going to be checking email or answering calls. Perhaps that's partially because so many don't understand the meaning. They just nod and accept that you've got something more important going on, and are less inclined to think you're slacking off.

john said...

Shit. I used that phrase just last week.

Still, much handier than trying to explain "I will be out of the office and travelling and will be in meetings or on a plane or renting a car or checking in and therefore will not be able to answer my cellphone or check email except sporadically for the next __ days."


I guess I'm gettin old.

tmitsss said...

When I started as a lawyer 30+ years ago a witness was out of pocket when unavailable and not under subpoena. Sometimes just unavailable . As in not in your coat pocket.. Not a phrase we learned in law school but from the practicing lawyers at the courthouse

Michael said...

The phrase has nothing to do with cell service, cell towers or anything technological. It means you are not available. It has nothing to do with being in or out of control. It has nothing to do with football. It certainly has nothing to do with hipness or hipsters.

As an economic term it generally means an inconsequential amount of expense borne by the speaker. I was out of pocket my expenses on that transaction. Or, we are going to do the marketing materials out of pocket. It means your own money.

Uncle Pavian said...

The Mrs. (who is from Texas and turned 79 last month) has used "out of pocket" to mean "unavailable by usual means" for as long as I've known her. Her mother used the phrase in the same sense, too. There is nothing new under the sun.

Astro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crunchy Frog said...

In my 40-something SoCal existence I've never heard of "out of pocket" used that way.

For as long as I can remember it's been "off grid".

Anthony said...

Remember, this is Sandra Fluke's demographic: when they want to say "paid for with one's own money" the phrase they use is "denied access".

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Thread win.

stutefish said...

Apparently "out of pocket" is the new "off the hook".

Smilin' Jack said...

Again:

out of pocket
adj (out-of-pocket when prenominal)
1. (postpositive) having lost money, as in a commercial enterprise
2. without money to spend
3. (prenominal) (of expenses) unbudgeted and paid for in cash
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


But I thank all those commenters who expressed contrary views. You've helped me understand why Obama is a two-term president.

bagoh20 said...

"Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003"

You do understand that the number of users, education and experience involved in coming to that definition is far less than what you read here today. Most likely some guy at a dimly lit desk in 1991 who never heard the term used himself. But, hey it was in a book, so it can't be wrong, incomplete, or out of date.

Yep, you voted for Obama.

Mitch H. said...

Hmm, same way that "chickenshit" at some point between 1941 and 1972 ceased to mean "penny-ante bureaucratic smallmindness" and turned into a synonym for cowardly.

netmarcos said...

So where does "mice nuts" fit into this?

Belial said...

Still, much handier than trying to explain "I will be out of the office and travelling and will be in meetings or on a plane or renting a car or checking in and therefore will not be able to answer my cellphone or check email except sporadically for the next __ days."

Or, you could simply abbreviate all that to "I'll be out of commission", which is what "out of pocket" is a malaprop for.

Belial said...

Oh, and yes, the Sandra Fluke bit is definitely the thread winner.

saultxy said...

Out of pocket, as idiom, always meant broke, as in having no money -- and different from the literal out of pocket expenses. It never meant unreachable or incommunicado, which is a metaphoric stretch.

saultxy said...

William Safire, the late and sorely missed New York Times columnist and lexicographer, could settle this out-of-pocketness. I guess they would say he was out of pocket ...