Antedating of "Outside the Box" (UNCLASSIFIED)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 3 23:40:28 UTC 2010

William Safire discusses the nine dots puzzle in 1995 and quotes Newt
Gingrich using the phrase "thinking outside the dots."

ON LANGUAGE; Grotesquerie in a Box by William Safire
Published: May 21, 1995

Finding exact and near-exact matches is important. Sometimes it is
also useful to look for antecedents and phrases that are thematically
and semantically related. Here are a few possibilities, e.g.:

beyond the box
break outside the box
go outside the box
think outside the lines
think outside the limits
color outside the lines

There are matches for some of these phrases with Google Books dates
before 1971, but many are limited to snippet view and a hassle to
verify. Here is an old-fashioned antecedent in full view:

Cite: 1887 October, The Annual Register of World Events, Page 168,
Longmans, Green.

... the Liberal party became a one-man party, which scarcely ventured
to think outside the lines prescribed by its dictator.

Victor Steinbok wrote:
> To make matters even more interesting, as far as the puzzle is
> concerned, Gardner had proposed a solution that uses only three
> lines--provided we are dealing with "physical dots" or circles, not
> geometric points. I'll leave it to your outside the box thinking to
> figure that one out.

Right. If the dots have non-zero radius then the first line goes
through the first row, the second line goes through the second row and
the third line goes through the third row. I am sure that for some
topologies of the universe one can go through all nine dots with one
line. That would involve going way outside the box but staying within
the universe.


The American Dialect Society -

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