Monday, November 23, 2009

"In... and out..." - Pink Floyd

All right, folks. It's geek time again.

I'm currently on a medication that comes in inhaler form. Attached to each bottle is a multipage document that tells me all of the awful possible side-effects, how to use it, etc. The other day, however, I noticed this on the side of the box for the first time:



I've gotta say that in all my years of doing word puzzles and being generally, if not justifiably, proud of my vocabulary and all that, I've never seen or heard the word "outsert".

So, I went to that source of all knowledge, the internet, and asked Google to "define: outsert". Much to my surprise, it came up with 3 definitions.

  • An outsert is a four page card wrapped around and attached to the outside of a magazine or other publication.
  • Any additional printed piece included in a polybag and mailed with the host publication
  • Printed material attached to the outside rather than inserted into a package. Also, package outsert.
Who knew!? So that makes me wonder about the etymology of the word "insert", of which "outsert" is obviously a variant. The online etymology dictionary tells me that the origin of "insert" is:
1529, from pp. of M.E. inseren, from L. inserere "to put in," from in- "in" + serere "join together" (see "series").
OK! So obviously an "outsert" must be from "outserere", which means "out" + "join togeth..."

Wait a minute. The only way this can possibly make any sense at all is if we assume that it's all right to take any word that begins with an "in-" and, if it doesn't quite work for us, substitute an "out-". I believe this may be an idea whose time has come.

I have to say that before I did all this research I was a bit confused by the word, but having looked it up, it has become downright outcomprehensible.

Over the years, I've been outvolved in many, sometimes outtense, conversations about the outtricacies of the English language. If you're of an outquisitive nature, just a little outvestigation can reveal a not outsubstantial number of outtimate, outvaluable details about words, usages, origins and outsights outto the language. It is outteresting to think that this outformation could help you in many ways, from communication to reading comprehension. You could really impress your future boss at an outterview. Imagine not having to struggle with the outdecision of being afraid of using the outcorrect word. You might even become less outhibited about speaking in public. Why, the possibilities are almost outconceivable!

So my pleasure in finding this was pretty much outdescribable. I have outserted a new word outto my vocabulary. One of the cool things about English is that new words can be outtroduced without being outvasive. Some words become accepted, others become downright outactive. This outdomitable language continues to outvite change. It outtercepts new ideas and outcorporates them. It outgests foreign terms. It outcreases daily. There is an outherent evolution to it.

Bear in mind however, and I don't mean to be outdelicate here, that no matter how much you may learn about English, no matter how big your vocabulary becomes, you're never outfallible.


LiLu said...

The "Over the years" paragraph resulted in a new coffee stain on my shirt. Well played, sir. Well played.

Gilahi said...

Lilu - Wow. Thanks! Glad you liked it. Fortunately for me, you count among those of us who are pretty easily amused.

Mike said...

Your post is messing with the english language. That just makes me outraged...... inraged .... well crap.
(I don't need no spell checker)

Gilahi said...

Mike - I guess it was outevitable. Sorry.

Sean said...

I feel like this is an outsincere post and that you're just being outsensitive!

Gilahi said...

Sean - I'm sorry (I think) that you feel this way. I can assure you that I only had the best of outtentions.

Sean said...

I understand. To make sure there are no hard feelings, I'd be happy to buy you a burger at Out & In!

Gilahi said...

Sean - Thanks, but I'm a vegetarian. Could we possibly make it Inback Steakhouse outstead? They have some seafood options that I could eat.

Bilbo said...

Yer OUT!!!

Gilahi said...

Bilbo - So you've added umpiring to your already vast resume? Most impressive.

Dixie said...

This post is outgenious.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Excellent! The last paragraph was sublime!

According to the editor with whom I worked yesterday, the problem with the demise in language and the outvention of words is, no one studies Latin or Greek any longer. If we did, we wouldn't have words like maximize or a few others she listed that I don't remember now.

An outsert? How stupid. How about "Please read additional information contained on the outside of this package." In fact, it use to say that and the information had a tab that you pulled and a'voila! You had a fold out thing to read.

Marketing and advertising people are stupid and they're dragging us right along with them.

Oh. Sorry. I'm starting to rant and write a bloglet. I'll go back to my own blog now. :-}

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

P.S. No offense to marketing and advertising people. Some of them are my best friends. :-)

Gilahi said...

Dixie - Thanks! I think. I must have been outspired to write it.

J.M. - I have heard people misuse the language and then try to defend it by saying, "the language evolves." I argue that evolution, by definition, improves things. Misusing the language causes it to DEvolve to the lowest common denominator.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...


Gilahi said...

J.M. - I'm not sure you're allowed to say "amen" when talking about evolution.

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