Monday, August 29, 2011

ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO, MONDAY REQUEST EDITION:  Commenter Rick has a question which I've kept neglecting to post:
Does the term 'out' -- the common one-word corruption of the phrase 'out of the closet' -- require quotation marks in context? For example,
The plaintiff was not yet out to her grandmother.

The plaintiff was not yet "out" to her grandmother.
Over here, we are all agreed that quotes are not needed when using the whole phrase 'out of the closet' in context, nor are they needed when using the verb phrase 'to come out'. The one-word term, though, has us bitterly divided.


  1. Meghan8:06 AM

    No.  I don't have a real reason other than adding quotes seems to marginalize the term and, staying away from anything more political than that, I'm not in favor.

  2. Paul Tabachneck8:36 AM

    The quotes make it a little easier to understand, if that's the only sentence I'm reading -- still, "The plaintiff had not yet come out to her grandmother" is clearer about the usage of the word 'out,' and only taxes the writer by one word more. 

  3. I didn't recognize that at first, but it is a problem if you don't realize the quotes are meant to clarify rather than call into question the legitimacy of the term.  (For my money, I'd revise the sentence in written form to avoid this problem.)

  4. Meghan9:13 AM

    And if you say, "come out" rather than saying, "was out," you avoid the passive voice.  My high school English teachers would approve.

  5. Genevieve10:24 AM

    Meghan's right, Paul's solution fixes two problems.  Perfect.

  6. I'd know what you meant, either way, and assume most readers would these days.  Admittedly, I'm frequently disappointed in such assumptions.

  7. Anonymous11:19 AM

    I don't know, Phil. taken out of context (and without the explanatiory stuff preceding it in this post) I might not immediately assume that sentence was about being out of the closet, and might assume it was some sort of regionalism about arriving at Grandma's house. That said, given that we're taking about a plaintiff here, I'm sure there's already context for this sentence in the document, and this should be perfectly self explanatory.

    Paul's edit is, of course, better.

  8. Marsha11:19 AM

    That was me. Dont' know why my computer has decided I'm a guest all of a sudden.

  9. spacewoman1:49 PM

    No quotes necessary; we get it.  Then again, we live in Berkeley adjacent.

  10. bella wilfer2:19 PM

    I'm also on team no quotes.  Feel like people would get it from context.  Though I second Phil's "I'm frequently disappointed in such assumptions"...

  11. Melissa R5:50 PM

    I agree, if that's the only sentence you're providing, it needs to be written better.  Because out of context and without the quotes, I'm thinking the plaintiff was traveling to grandma's house and not yet there just as much as I'm thinking the plaintiff is gay.  And with the quotes may stir up some unnecessary controversy.      

  12. Context is everything, to be sure.

    "The beach was well into sunset by that time, and the plaintiff swam furiously in the direction of the fading calls for help, barely audible over the crashing surf.  Shortly however, it was completely dark and she had only the lights on shore to keep her bearings.  She was not yet out to her grandmother.  The body of an elderly woman, later identified as the that of the plaintiff's 87 year old maternal grandmother, was discovered several miles down the beach from defendant hotel's property by fisherman the following morning." 

  13. Thanks for the input.
    The discussion came while quoting someone, so rephrasing was not an option. We ultimately went without quotes, but I understand where my friends were coming from.
    A tangent that came from the discussion: how far back does the simplification to one word go? At one point, we had all agreed that if it was older than 15 years, we would go without quotes. Simple enough, we thought, but then were surprised to not be able to find out flying solo pre-96, and had to regroup to new arguments.

    And if you read 'to find out' as a verb phrase in that last sentence and needed to reread that bit to remember the context, you're a homophobe. ;)