sketched out

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu May 20 00:11:22 UTC 2004

in a 5/13/04 linguistics talk at Stanford the speaker mentioned that
her subjects were “really sketched out” about being observed.  in the
context, this clearly meant something in the range from 'freaked out'
to 'distressed' to 'bothered, annoyed'.  jonathon green's Cassell's
Dictionary of Slang (1998) has "sketched out" (1980s+) as a u.s. campus
drug expression: "suffering paranoia due to the effects of
hallucinogenic drugs" (with a connection to "sketching", 'coming down
from a drug-induced high', and "sketchy", 'confused, unstable, strange,
unsettling', and simple "sketched", 'bad, bizarre, weird', and the verb
"sketch", 'to feel unstable or confused').

[why the verb "sketch"?  not my concern here, but what's the semantic

clearly, "sketched out" has, unsurprisingly, lost its drug connections,
so to speak, for some speakers in some contexts and has extended to a
more general 'freaked out' sense.  and then radiated to various
negative-emotion meanings, as in these google cites (from a great

'freaked out':

...On the one hand, I think it was one of the best programs of the
year. On
 the other hand, some people ended up being really sketched out by
it.... programs/speeddating.htm

?'wary, dubious', perhaps because of distressing experiences:

...I mean I was really sketched out I was like, "Dude, this is gonna be
stupid."  But I read the script and the scenes that I did were really

?'depressingly run-down':

...I can totally understand how people who haven't been there before
would think it's really sketched out. The downtown's really
desolate.... articles.asp?articleId=6&title=Small+Brown+Bike

?'extreme', and hence 'wild, wonderful':

...We were going between 5 & 6 feet up & about 15 or so feet out.
Travis (my brother) pulled a really sketched out 360 which was the
biggest spin of the day....

 as usual, even large amounts of context don't necessarily make the
intended sense clear, beyond the fact that some exclamative evaluation
is being made.

arnold (zwicky at

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