Posted by Bruce Kahl on August 14, 2005
In Reply to: Gross out posted by Bob on August 13, 2005
: : : Variations on "to gross out," as for example, "When the other cockroaches ate that one squashed cockroach ... that really grossed me out."
: : : The expression is still heard in its figurative sense occasionally, and was endemic in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s. Hasty searches of this site and the Web at large didn't turn up anything, but I believe it originated in aviation. Pilots have for decades used "grossed out" to mean that an airplane is loaded to its maximum allowable gross weight; "bulked out" means that it's packed full, but below max gross weight. Freight dogs flying for FedEx, UPS and DHL still use the terms in their original sense, usually without irony or double entendre.
: : : Given the sudden appearance of "grossed out" in its figurative sense during the 1960s, I suspect that it evolved among Vietnam-era aviators, who then brought it home with them. The meaning could have made the transition fairly easily, from being literally too heavy to lift off the tarmac, to being overwhelmed by events or circumstances, to being merely repulsed by something disgusting.
: : : As an aside, surface freighters - land and sea - have probably used the terms "grossed out" and "bulked out" (or something like them) for a much longer time, but the return of large numbers of military aviators from Vietnam seems to have been the trigger for the rise of the metaphorical "grossed out."
: : All I've found so far is that "gross" was youth slang in the 1960s.
: The conjecture that returning aviators were the trigger for the widespread use of "grossed out" seems unlikely to me. "Gross," meaning repulsive, was in use long before that era. The construction "_____-out" was not limited to grossed out. There was "freaked out" and "tripped out," to choose two examples, neither of which had to do with flying. In an airplane, at least.
Sunshine comes softly thru my window today, coulda tripped out easy---whoops, wrong era.
There is the Late L***n word "grossus" which means "coarse". It also means "big" or "thick".
There was a medieval English coin worth four pence, called a groat (also known as a thick penny), and a German coin called a Groschen. Both groat and Groschen are derived from gross.
The "thick" sense of gross is also to be found in the name of the bird called a grosbeak which does have a very thick bill.