Outta Pocket or “out of pocket” has three known meanings:
- an “out-of-pocket” expense means paying with one’s own money or also having made a loss, as after a transaction
- being “out of pocket” means someone is unreachable or unavailable
- “out-of-pocket” or “outta pocket” behavior means someone is saying or acting inappropriate, disrespectful or in an unacceptable way.
“Out of pocket” in relation to expenses was used in Journals of the House of Commons from the early 1800s. However, the other meanings of the term weren’t researched until 2009, when Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania discovered the term in an article describing the missing governor of South Carolina as “out of pocket”. 1
“The governor put in a lot of time during this last legislative session, and after the session winds down it’s not uncommon for him to go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head.” (MSNC June 6, 2009)
Liberman found the term’s meaning “out of reach, absent, unavailable” in Oxford English Dictionary with a citation going back to 1908 in a short story by O. Henry called “Buried Treasure”:
“Just now she is out of pocket. And I shall find her as soon as I can.”
The third meaning of “out of pocket” was given as a comment on Liberman’s Language Log post, written by nascardaughter claiming that in southern states of the U.S. “ ‘out of pocket’ can refer to behavior considered unconventional, inappropriate, or just plain wrong. You might say that someone who gets really drunk at a party and starts flirting with your significant other is acting out of pocket, for example.”
“Outta pocket” as a slang meaning acting out of line, started spreading rapidly in the 1990s mostly due to the rap scene and then thanks to the social media in the 2010s. The first entry of it was posted in Urban Dictionary in January 12, 2003.
Nowadays you can see “Outta pocket” used by Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok users to describe when someone is acting crazy or inappropriate, saying something crazy or when they choose an ugly outfit.
- Urbandictionar.com – Outta Pocket