"Luck out"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 16 13:26:40 UTC 2011

>The "adjective" form seems to me to be basically a passive
> participle reflecting a transitive application.

Maybe. But cf. "punched out," 'no longer able to punch; out of
punches.' To "punch somebody out" means something entirely different.

"The Press: Lucked Out" is indeed the entire headline. The phrase
doesn't reappear in the article.

I prefer to consider "lucked out" as an adj. in cases like this
because, as the headline shows, it conveys its meaning despite a
somewhat obscure semantic structure.

The writer must have assumed that the meaning was transparent. The
rarity of the form suggests, perhaps, some regional restriction. (Cf.
positive "anymore," which is, for many of us, equally bizarre, while
perfectly transparent to others.)

What's certain is that both positive and negative applications have
existed, and that the positive ones appear to come earlier and the
negative ones have never been as firmly established.

One of the blog comments observes that the HDAS exx. of negative "luck
out" are from "suboptimal sources."  I believe that reflects a very
weak "literary" tradition rather than a questionable existence.

I recall my surprise at the certainty with which the two middle-aged
New Yorkers quoted in HDAS asserted - as a by-product of another
conversation - that "luck out" was "originally negative" in their
experience. They had met just recently.  Perhaps they were thinking of
"lucked out" adj. rather than "to luck out."


On Sat, Oct 15, 2011 at 9:13 PM, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at nb.net> wrote:
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> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "Luck out"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 10/15/2011 8:33 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
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>> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: "Luck out"
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Here apparently is another "lucked out," adj. :
>> 1942 _Time_ (Sept. 28) 56: The Press: Lucked Out ... If indestructible
>> Larry Allen's luck had indeed run out (his capture is still not
>> officially conformed), he could console himself with the knowledge
>> that his courageous efforts to get the news had made newspaper
>> history. ...[He had] two miraculous escapes from death. ...Allen is
>> the 18th U.S. correspondent ... to be taken prisoner on the job in
>> World War II.
>> This appears to be the only time Time has used th phrase.
> --
> Given the ellipticalness of the title (if I'm understanding correctly
> that it is merely "Lucked Out"), no exact interpretation seems secure in
> this case IMHO.
> This example and a number of others were quoted in Mark Liberman's
> Language Log posts, and in some appended comments.
> To me, the transitive applications of the collocation (e.g., "They
> lucked out a victory", "They lucked us out of the victory"/"We were
> lucked out of the victory") seem entirely distinct from the intransitive
> ones (e.g., "They lucked out and won", "They lucked out and lost"),
> although I suppose one can inquire/speculate as to historical
> connections. The "adjective" form seems to me to be basically a passive
> participle reflecting a transitive application.
> -- Doug Wilson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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