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lucked out

December 6, 2017

There was a piece by Julian Baggini in yesterday’s Guardian – about Bitcoins and the casino aspects of our economy generally – in which the following sentence, or something very like it, appeared: ‘If you’re lucky you worry about paying the mortgage; if you’re a little less lucky you worry about paying the rent; if you’ve lucked out completely you worry about being kicked out of your hostel’.

I was brought up short by that phrasal verb lucked out. In the context it clearly means ‘run out of luck’; but I had always thought it meant to have some great and possibly unexpected stroke of good fortune.

I googled the phrase and discovered that in the USA and Canada, to luck out does indeed mean to get lucky; while here in Britain it means to be out of luck, just as Dr Baggini used it. So this is another of those words/phrases (like moot) which have opposite meanings on different sides of the Atlantic. The British usage seems more logical, yet it still doesn’t sound right to me – simply because I encountered the American use first, I suppose. I think I’ll avoid its use altogether from now on. Not that I ever used it much anyway.

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3 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Rather confusingly Americans also use “lucked into” so you “luck in when you luck out”.

  2. Simon Carter permalink

    But when your luck’s out you won’t luck in or luck out.

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