get out in front

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 19 08:04:05 UTC 2011

Having watched several episodes of Da Vinci's Inquest (1999-2001), I
noticed the main character regularly using variations on a phrase
"[want/try] [to] get/be [out] in front [of it]" , meaning "want to get a
head start" or, more specifically, "want to have information ready, in
case there is need for it", i.e., gather evidence in case an
investigation is needed. This strikes me as a fairly ordinary expression
with idiomatic meaning. I've tried several different combinations to
search first the OED, then other dictionaries, but drew blanks.

Here are a couple of fairly ordinary uses in titles:
Colorado legislators try to get out in front of 'sensational suicide'
with anti-bullying legislation
The Obama campaign must get out in front of the coming crises, or else
Restaurants Slice Calories From the Menu to Get Out in Front of New Rules

The similarities are not accidental, as I only used one search pattern.

I suppose, it is possible that the phrase is derivative from front n. 10.a.

> 10. a. in (the) front of (prep. phr.): at a position before, in
> advance of, facing, or confronting; at the head of (troops). in his,
> our, etc. front : in front of or facing him, us, etc.The article is
> now omitted, exc. in expressions like in the (very) front of (danger
> etc.) = ‘in the position most exposed to’, ‘bearing the brunt of’.

10.b., c., d. don't seem to match this sense at all. Other dictionaries
are even less likely to have full phrases.

I have not looked at any historical information (no GB, no news), but,
as I said, the phrase is fairly ordinary, at least since the late
1980s-early 1990s.


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