Tuesday January 29, 2013
OUTstanding in its versatility
MIND OUR ENGLISH
By LUCILLE DASS
Whether you are ‘out of your head’ or have ideas that are ‘out of the box’, it would probably not be ‘out of place’ to say that the little O-word is OUTstanding in its versatility.
OUT, damned spot! Out I say!” That was me in a desperate bid to be rid of an obnoxious pimple (at my age!) that had lodged itself on my otherwise clean-and-clear face (ahem). Somehow, Lady Macbeth’s words sprang to mind.
Then, out of the blue, this three-lettered multi-tasking word “out” – adverb, preposition, noun, verb, and prefix – took hold of me. I decided to give it a workout for all its worth.
That was how I started out my morning after I rolled out at around eight-thirty. (Yes, eat your heart out, I have the luxury of sleeping in ... even till much later!).
It was also then that I realised I had been out of action on this page for a while. It felt so out of character, especially for someone who had been a fairly regular contributor to the page for so many years.
And no, I hope not to be speaking out of turn when I say that I do not want to be put out of circulation, not yet. So I needed to play safe and not fall out of favour with the co-ordinator of the page, lest I be left out in the cold in future. Moreover, as a pensioner, any token sum earned allows me to lash out on a shopping spree, occasionally ... I know, I can be outspoken at times.
I also did not think it out of place to make a comeback with an all-out outing in pursuit of this petit mot (little word) that is so outgoing in its nature, at ease equally, in literal or idiomatic company. If you care to take some time out to think about it, you will note how frequently the word and the range of company it keeps feature in our friendly and informal speech.
Do hear me out then on my take as I continue to try to get the most out of it. Oh yes, I am aware that not much of what I say will be outside your ken. Indeed, I risk being branded an out and out liar, or worse, that I must be even out of my head, if I thought otherwise.
No, I am not talking out of my hat when I ask you this. Would you agree that the expression out of whack delivers more pack than out of order? They are both supposed to describe something that is malfunctioning. And that is what I said when my toaster decided to misbehave.
My grammatically upright (read: uptight) friend says only a wacko like me would use such an outlandish expression. She also wondered if I was feeling out of sorts. I tried explaining that it was a so refreshingly outside the box kind of expression ... but I almost got thwacked.
Well, some MPs did get “thwacked” recently when the august House decided it was time to amend the Standing Order 36(4) which now reads “It shall be out of order (my emphasis) for Members of the House to use offensive language or make a sexist remark” (The Star, 28 Nov 2012). This should ensure they do not step out of line anymore, right?
On another note, a heading carried in the newspaper of the same day reported: “High Court throws out MP’s appeal” (my emphasis), and in a similar vein it reported how a conspiracy claim filed by a lawyer was struck out (my emphasis) by the High Court.
The last bit that I picked out came from the Brave New World columnist Azmi Sharom, who lamented how he had recently been accused of being “... really quite a pathetic fellow, out of touch (my emphasis), overly idealistic and generally quite sad.” That is sad really, because I find his column refreshingly honest, up-to-date and very much in touch with reality.
Now to deal with a hard-to-swallow lump of reality – of late I seem to have outgrown my wardrobe. I suspect some little creatures invisible to the naked eye have taken up residence in my closet with a menacing intent – so that they can hatch out their craftily carved-out plan to stitch tight all my clothes!
Here I was, planning to go all decked out in a pretty and strappy gown to an upcoming function. That is plainly out of the question now. Sigh. I am tempted to do something out of revenge. I simply must put those little monsters out of work!
What did you say? Out with it? Oh all right, I hate to admit this, but I have finally succumbed to the grim fact that age does weigh in more on some of us. There.
I promise to be out of your hair soon but not before saying this. It is surely not out of point to point out here that before we roll out the New Year with the usual fanfare, it will be good to count all blessings received in the year that was. Trust me, I have not run out of words here, only space.
Out of consideration for you, since I do not wish to wear you out, and of course, out of professional courtesy to our co-ordinator, I will now bow out ... oh, is that my friend I hear calling ... out front?
■ Lucille Dass is a freelance trainer in teacher development who delights in cheeky takes on words and subscribes to being pessimistically optimistic – something she learned from her father.