"out of pocket" (= not reachable)

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Jan 20 19:54:01 UTC 2002

This sense of "out of pocket" was in common use among my compatriots at the
Pentagon, 1994-5. I always assumed it was a football reference, but I have
no evidence to support that. Others have suggested to me that it evolved
from travel and "out of pocket expenses," but again no evidence was ever

I've found a few usenet citations from January 1995. These were the earliest
I turned up doing a search of the Google usenet archives:

"I have been out of pocket for a few days.  Can anyone tell me who beat
Alabama?" --ST33410 at vm.cc.latech.edu, Subject: A Techster with a Few
Questions, Newsgroups rec.sport.basketball.women, 1995-01-07 16:25:44 PST

"No, actually I'll be out of pocket for about five days starting in about
five minutes." --Leona Freeman (lcfreema at leona.b8.ingr.com), Subject: I'm
outta here!, Newsgroup: soc.singles, 1995-01-12 12:04:31 PST

"(..and with Leona out of pocket you'd be on your own...)" --Craig Wall
(cwall at swri.edu), Subject: Re: Being Single SUCKS!, Newsgroup: soc.singles,
1995-01-16 07:18:01 PST

"If not, is there a way of rnning [sic] lpc without being root?  i [sic]
need my users to be able to effect their own restarts when I'm out of
pocket." --Robert Eskridge (bryny at netcom.com), Subject: SunOS
4.1.2/Annex/WP5.0 print stall, Newsgroup: comp.sys.sun.admin, 1995-01-17
13:52:43 PST

"I've had several good penpals--some of whom I met "on the Net," but most
are currently out of pocket--or, rather, out of reach of Internet, which is
making email just a tad tricky." --Martin Young, martiny at delphi.com,
Subject: SWM ISO F Penpal, Newsgroup: soc.penpals, 1995-01-17 20:50:00 PST

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Gerald Cohen
Sent: Sunday, January 20, 2002 10:51 AM
Subject: "out of pocket" (= not reachable)

    Thanx for the responses on "loose as a goose." BTW, I'm curious
about the source of Patton's quote.

    Also, today I received a query on the expression "out of pocket"
as used to mean "really not reachable, really not available"; e.g.
"The director will be out of pocket for the next two hours." I.e.,
even by cell phone he can't be reached. FWIW, I had never heard it
used in this sense before. The person who sent me this query works in
the financial community in NYC.

    Would anyone know the original reference of this "out of pocket?"
Is it figuratively a pants pocket? The football pocket to protect the
Something else?

    Any information/insight/leads would be very much appreciated.

--Gerald Cohen

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