penciled out + fired

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 26 14:42:05 UTC 2011

"It was never penciled out" would mean an analysis was never done.

"It never penciled out" means the analyses never indicated that the
firm would be able to make money -- it never worked out on paper.


On Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 10:26 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: penciled out + fired
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 9/26/2011 07:06 AM, Dave Wilton wrote:
>>This use of "penciled out" is quite common in investment circles. I've heard
>>it hundreds of times and never in the passive. It's use in this case is akin
>>to "the numbers [don't] add up."
> So "penciled out" is a negative, implying rejection?  Or does
> "penciled out" mean "sketched, outlined, but not finalized" (akin to
> "I've penciled it in to my appointment book"), in contrast to
> something "inked in"?
> Joel
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
>>Victor Steinbok
>>Sent: Monday, September 26, 2011 5:04 AM
>>Subject: penciled out + fired
>>I came across this and started scratching my head.
>> > "It was revolutionary," said Walter Bailey, a former Macquarie Capital
>> > investment banker who specialized in green technology and visited
>> > Solyndra in 2008. "You had some of the smartest money in the world
>> > getting behind it. It was a real company with a huge factory and an
>> > extremely unique product.
>> > "The only problem," said Bailey, now a senior partner at boutique
>> > investment bank Focus Capital in New York, "was that it never penciled
>> > out."
>>It's fairly obvious what "never penciled out" means here, although I
>>would have expected a passive construction here ("was penciled out" or
>>"had been penciled out"). But, as it stood, the precise meaning was
>>elusive. None of the usual dictionary sources (certainly not the
>>OED--nothing even remotely related there) were helpful.
>>Farlex Financial Dictionary is the only one (unsurprisingly) that came
>> > A slang expression for a rough analysis of the viability of an
>> > investment.
>>Still, it seems that it should have worked out to a passive... The
>>meaning seems to be "the numbers never worked out", which is a bit
>>different from "the rough viability analysis was never done"--which is
>>what one would get from the Farlex definition, passivized.
>>I am also wondering if the writer got confused himself when putting the
>>piece together. The quote from Baily is broken in an odd way--I would
>>have expected the "was" to be included in the first piece, not delayed
>>for the second. It's as if the author /expected/ "was" to be in the
>>second piece--somewhere.
>>The American Dialect Society -
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