"Luck out"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 15 14:52:08 UTC 2011

Despite the appearance of negative "luck out" in HDAS, I've only heard
it alluded to in speech on two occasions (both among the cites), as
something that formerly existed.

I believe that Wentworth & Flexner were misinformed about the currency
of negative "luck out" during WWII.  I have never encountered it so
used in writings of or about that era.

This further antedating of the positive sense is (unusually)
transitive: it means "produce by luck":

1904 _Washington Post_ (Sept. 3) 8: Manager Donovan lucked out a bunt
to Patterson on which he got a scratch hit.

And here is a negative, also transitive ("thwarted defeated by bad luck")

1911 _Washington Post_  (Nov. 28) 8: His own club Detroit '[Ty Cobb]
picks to win the pennant holding that it was lucked out last season
through the injury to Gainer.

[The article reappeared in the _Lima Daily News_ (Dec. 12), in which
"lucked out" is more clearly printed.]

And one more early ex., which  sounds perfectly idiomatic:

1913 _Washington Post_ (Mar. 20) 8: "Dutch" Schaefer swears an oath
for revenge on the morrow. "They [sc. the opposing team] lucked out on
us today, boys. We'll show 'em that they're not in our class next
time, won't we?"

One reason that HDAS evidence is late may be because the phrase was
largely restricted - in print - to he formerly hard-to-access
newspaper sports pages. All three of the above exx. - from NewspArch,
which offers national coverage  - come from the _Washington Post_.

At least one HDAS quot. shows "lucked out" as a ppl. adj. meaning "out
of luck."


On Sat, Oct 15, 2011 at 6:49 AM, Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "Luck out"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Not to be confused with the recent, punful "Suck for Luck," an expression that might be opaque to those other than to football fans.
> --Charlie
> ________________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Douglas G. Wilson [douglas at NB.NET]
> Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 4:48 AM
> Here is something which seems a little interesting (to me anyway),
> brought up recently on Language Log (I don't know how much overlap there
> is between ADS-L and Language Log followers).
> "Luck out" [v. intrans.] has two opposing senses: (1) 'positive',
> meaning "encounter good luck" or so; (2) 'negative', meaning "encounter
> bad luck" or so. Both are in HDAS. I think the record indicates overall
> predominance of the 'positive' sense, but apparently the 'negative'
> sense has some currency, especially (but maybe not only) outside the US.
> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3484
> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3486
> Apparently the 'positive' sense is attested at least as early as 1911
> (US), the 'negative' at least as early as 1954 (US).
> Apparently the 'negative' sense was employed recently by Lee Child
> (present-day novelist, US resident), and earlier by Pohl and Williamson
> (1970's SF).
> -- Doug Wilson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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