"out of pocket" (= not reachable)

Donald M Lance lancedm at MISSOURI.EDU
Sun Jan 20 20:58:24 UTC 2002

For years and years I have used 'out of pocket' to refer to unavailability,
and I've never associated it with football, nor directly with pants pockets.
I've also heard it frequently from all kinds of people.  It's simply another
sense of this concatenation of words, with the pocket being metaphorical
rather than literal.

> From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> At 12:50 PM -0600 1/20/02, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>> 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
>> quarterback?
>> Something else?
> I've only ever heard "out of pocket" in the pants pocket sense:  one
> is forced to pay for something out of (one's own) pocket absent
> reimbursement.  The football sense to my knowledge always involves a
> quarterback being "out of THE pocket", never "out of pocket" except
> possibly in an attributive use like "an out-of-pocket quarterback can
> throw the ball away without getting called for intentional
> grounding".  The unreachable-by-cell-phone use is an odd one to me; I
> wonder if it results from a nonce re (or mis)interpretation.
> larry

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