Write This Down: “out of pocket”

Write This Down: “out of pocket”

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This week in Write This Down: why is everyone talking about being out of pocket? – Alanna Miller, Senior Associate, Russell Tobin & Associates

You’ve probably noticed this- you hear a word or phrase for the first time, and suddenly it’s all over. (This is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.) Apparently people have been digging themselves out of pockets for a while now but recently I’ve noticed the phrase everywhere, making me curious what these pockets are about. Whose pocket? How did you escape?

When you hear someone talking about being out of pocket, they are referring to being unavailable or out of reach.

Gertrude will be out of pocket tomorrow attending Faversham’s famed fern festival.

Unfortunately we don’t have much to delve into, because the etymology of the phrase is unclear. A number of sources agree that the American meaning of out of pocket as being unavailable can be traced to 1908; some indicate that the phrase is more commonly used in the South. Many definitions are insistent that the phrase not only means being unavailable, but completely unreachable- the phrase to use if you’re trying to make clear you cannot and will not be tracked down.