“Out of Pocket”: Financial Expression of the Day


On the receiving end of finance-speak…

“Out of pocket,” adjective, unavailable (as for a meeting).  Usage note:  When a normal person engages in a conversation with a heavy user of financial lingo, translational problems can arise because Wall Street types can’t help but sprinkle their non-work exchanges with asinine entries from their industry lexicon.  For example, if a plumber sizes up a repair problem at a Wall Streeter’s house and then says, “I’ll call you later in the week when I have the parts I need,” he may hear the following response:  “I’ll be out of pocket.”

Naturally, the plumber will be confused, quite possibly thinking that he was just told: “That’ll be out of pocket,” in which case the plumber might say to himself, “Why is this guy telling me that he’ll pay me with his own money rather than from some other source?  I wasn’t even talking about the bill.  And I don’t care where he gets the money.”  But our unsuspecting tradesman is working from the only definition in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, not the one from the financial field.  Our financier was simply trying to tell the plumber that he wouldn’t be reachable, but he couldn’t help himself, he had to baffle the poor guy with this abhorrent figure of speech.

According to Verbal Funderbunk, The Al Sharpton, Jr. Professor of Linguistics at the Appalachian State Normal School, there are probably three reasons why bankers and-the-like blur linguistic lines by slipping their pet expressions into conversations outside the job: 1) many speakers of finance gobbledygook are workaholics who have nothing even close to a reasonable balance between their professional and personal lives, consequently viewing wives, children, et al as extended members of the deal team and speaking to them as such; 2) by inserting Wall Street tropes into non-work conversations, the finance industry employee, naturally an egomaniac, signals to outsiders that he is a very important person with a very important and lucrative job who sometimes speaks in a strange way but does so only because he’s operating on a higher plane and trying to be more efficient for the benefit of everyone participating in the discussion (“I’ve got ‘dry powder’ for more Girl Scout cookies…“); and 3) confusing the non-fluent makes the spread sheet jockey feel better about the awful hours, the pitchbook minutia (“…let’s put a chart in the presentation about the client’s subsidiary in the Federated States of Micronesia…”), and the tedium (3 a.m. at the printer, waiting to proofread yet another version of the document).

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