As puzzling as all getout

Posted by ESC on March 31, 2005

In Reply to: As puzzling as all getout posted by James Briggs on March 31, 2005

: : : : I know that "all getout" seems to be used as a simile to create an easy superlative for just about anything, but does anyone know the origin of, or basis for, the phrase?

: : : : Thx

: : : You're right about how getout is used. Here's the OED definition of "get-out": "1. Phr. as or like (all) get-out, used to indicate a high degree of something." The parenthesis around "all" is there because as early as 1869 the phrase "as getout" was used in the way "as all getout" is now. The first appearance of "all" in the phrase is, according to the OED, in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn . But as for origin, the OED is not much help. It's obviously connected somehow to "get out" as "leave" or "escape." It brings to mind the use of the phrase, "Get out of here!" This phrase is often used to express astonishment, sort of a synonym of "You can't be serious!" I don't mean that there's a connection between the two phrases, only that in both phrases "get out" has wildly morphed in terms of meaning. SS

: : all get-out - "To an extreme degree or extent. 'He's mad as all get-out.' The expression is frequently heard in other regions as well." From Mountain Range: A Dictionary of Expressions from Appalachia to the Ozarks by Robert Hendrickson (Volume IV, Facts on File Dictionary of American Regional Expressions, Facts on File, New York, N.Y.,1997).

: I've never heard the expression in the UK. Is this just me, or is uncommon/unused here?

It is common here in my part of the U.S. (Kentucky and West Virginia). "That lemonade is sour as all get-out."