Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

“Based out of”: Why?

I’ve been seeing and hearing people use “based out of” more and more, when they mean simply “based in.” The phrases at first glance would seem to mean opposite things, as if being “based out of New York” would imply one is not actually in New York. But it’s clear people use them with the same intention. 

Case in point: At the U. S. Small Business Administration website a paragraph about Home-Based Businesses includes this: “In fact, more than half of all U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home.”

I see this phenomenon as yet another example of what is to me a peculiar affection for a term or phrase longer than one with the same meaning that’s been considered standard for a long time. Folks no longer plan, they pre-plan. We take preventative steps, not preventive. But “based out of” seems worse, because to me it’s just bad usage.

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I'd suggest that there is a slight difference:

"You are going to be based in the NY office" = you will spend most of your time working in the NY office.
"You are going to be based out of the NY office" = you'll be spending quite a lot of time on the road, but the NY office will be your base.
(In this second context, in BrE at least, we also say - "You'll be working out of the NY office")

Take that example from the U.S. Small Business Administration website. I doubt most of these people are actually doing business in their homes, in terms of dealing with customers etc. In fact that website also refers to "home-based businesses".

In BrE preventative is quite standard, although less common than preventive. (Site search at the Times = 128 preventive:102 preventative, 418:211 at the Economist). Both apparently came into English at much the same time.

I'm afraid I'm a preventative and orientated (also OK in BrE) sort of bloke. But I don't think it's because I like longer words or am trying to sound clever; these are simply the words I've always been used to, and I also prefer the way they sound.

As for pre-plan, if we can say something like "we need to plan ahead on this one" I don't really see a problem with pre-plan ("plan in advance"- Oxford Dictionaries). Pro-active gets similar criticism, but similarly I see a difference between pro-active and active. The point being in the former you act before events happen, rather than simply reacting to them.

And how do you feel about 'burglarize' (AmE), which seems to be much more common in the States than the considerably shorter 'burgle', and is a back formation from 'burglar'? Isn't it just really a matter of what you're used to?

Incidentally, there are several forum discussions about "based out of" around the web.

Warsaw Will Dec-03-2013

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Warsaw Will, thanks for your response (quite informative as usual). Actually I'd say the Small Business Administration _is_ discussing businesses conducted in homes. In the section on "Before You Begin" we find: "Where in the home will the business be located? What adjustments to living arrangements will be required? What will be the cost of changes? How will your family react? What will the neighbors think?"

Even if some of these businesses require one to go out to clients, they are run from the home (and many involve no outside work, just telephone and web-based activity). In your New York example, I would have no issue with folks talking about "working out of the NY office"--yes, they'll be going elsewhere often, but they'll still be _based in_ NY.

OK, I fear we just won't agree on that! "Preventative" is I think quite common in the US, and I guess "orientate" as well. The latter bugs me more, seems needlessly ornate, and I see that at TheFreeDictionary all three sources quoted identify "orientate" when used transitively as meaning "orient." I cannot say whether this is because I've simply become accustomed to hearing/seeing "orient" more over the years, but this may be.

"Pre-plan" I will have to align with "based out of" as another term I just do not like. "We need to plan ahead" is a redundancy, although one so common I don't think anyone takes it as such now. I'm curious as to how Oxford accepts "pre-plan" and then defines it "plan in advance"--as if there's any other way to plan!

Like you I really can't see why "proactive" is an issue for some: I've always understood it as being a different animal from "active," which unlike "proactive" has nothing inherently to do with doing something before a possible consequence. Thus the latter is a kind of antonym to "reactive."

"Burgled"--I think that's what happens in Great Britain, while in the States we get "burglarized." I kind of like burgled, but have probably never used it. So you've got me there!

I had noted the existence of "based out of" discussions and looked at a few. Just took another gander and found this observation (dated Sept. 2011) at "I would presume that 'based out of' indicates that although New York is your base, you regularly travel to places outside that area.
I'm only guessing though. I've never heard that usage in the UK." I hope it's still a rarity there!

providencejim Dec-03-2013

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Ships are said to be 'out of' a certain port. One might speak of a freighter 'out of Amsterdam', which presumably refers to either their port of registration or of departure.
The 'based' part is redundant.

Skeeter Lewis Dec-04-2013

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"Three months later I was on a Norwegian freighter out of Halifax harbor heading for Liverpool, leaving a tiny untidy apartment and a perfectly nice girlfriend."
Norm Macdonald

Skeeter Lewis Dec-04-2013

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@Skeeter Lewis: The nautical use of "out of" makes perfect sense, given that ships doing business would be away from their home ports. Getting rid of the redundant "based" is a fine thing! Thanks for your input.

providencejim Dec-04-2013

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@providencejim - I think you're right about ''based out of' not being used in the UK; at last I haven't heard it, although I'm now living outwith the UK anyway. I wouldn't use it myself, but it doesn't really bother me if somebody else does. As a language teacher I've come to realise that there is very little logic in the way we use prepositions, and it is as much idiomatic as anything else.

Back to preventative / preventive: I actually think I use both depending on the context; I think I'm more likely to say preventative medicine but preventive measures for example. It's possible I use preventive when it seems to be more about stopping people doing things, or it might just be what sounds better with the next word.

I don't really see how an extra couple of letters makes a word more ornate. As one commenter on this forum once said, should you always say 'huge' and never 'enormous', just because it's shorter? Burchfield, in the Third Edition of Fowler's personally prefers 'preventive' and 'orient', but says both forms are acceptable in each case, and of 'orientated' - 'one can have no fundamental quarrel with anyone who decides to use the longer of the two words'.

I have a funny feeling this idea that shorter is always better is rather more popular in the States than in Britain. Personally I prefer to have a choice; there's the way words sound for example. I use both among and amongst, for example, depending, I think, on what follows. For example, if the next word starts with a vowel, I imagine I'm more likely to use amongst.

Re: pre-plan. Yes planning is always done in advance, but look at how different people plan for Christmas. Some start in June, others leave it to the last minute - I see no reason why we can't say that the former do their planning well in advance. I would see pre-planning as planning before it's normally considered necessary, such as pre-planning your own funeral for example (this appears to be overwhelmingly what it's used for!). I must confess, however, that I don't ever remember using it myself and it doesn't appear to be used much in the British media. And although I'm loth to condemn it out of hand, I'm certainly not advocating its use.

As for Oxford Dictionaries, their only criteria are whether a word or expression is reasonably widely used, and how people use it; it's not a matter of accepting it or not. The new editor of the OED has recently pointed out that the OED has always been descriptive, even if some people have elevated it into some sort of bible. And as I see it, it's a dictionary's primary job to tell us what words mean, and if their use is controversial, to give us the present position. For example the (London) Times has an article from 2006 on 'How to handle exam stress', in which they tell a reader 'You need to pre-plan more'. Now if a dictionary doesn't tell me what that means, as far as I'm concerned, it isn't doing its job. But it's not a dictionary's job to make value judgements. Having said that, only a few dictionaries seem to list pre-plan.

But it for me it always comes back to the same thing - everyone can make their own choices about the words and expressions they us, and with a few exceptions mine would probably be pretty similar to yours. But I'm not going to get too bothered if other people's choices don't always coincide with mine.

Warsaw Will Dec-04-2013

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Well put, as usual, Warsaw Will. I agree that dictionaries have as a primary responsibility to provide meanings for words we use, regardless of acceptance levels. But I do like to see them tell us if something is "nonstandard" or "colloquial" or, as you say, controversial.

Your mention of pre-planning a funeral prompted me to google "planning your own funeral" and on the first page of hits only one instance of "pre-plan" showed up--although it was for a page at the National Funeral Directors Association (which drops the hyphen). Hate to admit it, but this is one usage context that actually seems reasonable to me--planning one's own funeral seems kind of stark, but pre-planning it adds some distance. So I shall not look down on anyone pre-planning their funeral!

I don't really look down on folks using words in a way I don't; I would say it just grates on me a little (OK, sometimes a lot) if it seems the usage violates common sense or clear communication. At any rate, being observant of how language changes is to me a fruitful pastime.

providencejim Dec-04-2013

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Hi Jim. Try Googling it the other way round, i.e. for "pre-plan".Go to page 2 (past all the definitions) and it's nearly all for funeral services.

As for dictionaries, being a teacher, I nearly always use learner's dictionaries, which tend to give quite good usage notes, and comment on acceptability. Although I have to confess that none of the the four standard learner's dictionaries in fact list preplan / pre-plan.

Incidentally I'd say there's a difference between:

nonstandard - I ain't never seen him. He were sat at the bar.
colloquial or informal - I kind of like him. I'll pop over and see you this evening.
controversial /acceptability - He's taller than me, Hi, it's me. Who's that? Only me.
He inferred that I was a liar (see next paragraph)

For 'me' Oxford Advanced Learner's (OALD) has the note: "The use of me in the last three examples is correct in modern standard English. I in these sentences would be considered much too formal for almost all contexts, especially in British English.

On infer, OALD has a usage note that includes this:

"Infer is now often used with the same meaning as imply. However, many people consider that a sentence such as Are you inferring that I’m a liar? is incorrect, although it is fairly common in speech."

This is the approach I like: they tell you the situation and leave the choice to you.

Colloquial and controversial, and I suppose some people would say non-standard, although I wouldn't, as it's used informally by people who speak absolutely standard English and not dialect - Me and John are going to the pub - but none of my learner's dictionaries dare include that one.

Warsaw Will Dec-06-2013

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Will, with imply/infer you have hit on probably my longest-held pet peeve. If infer is simply going to mean imply, then what shall we use to mean infer? To me this is absolutely foolish. I can't blame people for using infer to mean imply because it's been going on in the US since at least the early 1960s (which I know due to a memory of arguing about it in a college class in 1964 or 65). It's a mystery: Why would people develop an affinity for infer over the "correct" word of the same length and simplicity?

A similar phenomenon exists with using "myself" rather than "me," as in "The report was written by Albert and myself." I agree with your categorizations of the examples given (ain't, kind of, taller than me, etc.). In all but formal writing I have no problem with all these usages (and do myself say "It's me" but never "Barb and myself will be there" or "Barb and me will be").

providencejim Dec-06-2013

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Hi Jim, I confess to the last one occasionally, but this may be more of a British thing - this is from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, a bible for EFL teachers:

"Object forms are sometimes used in co-ordinated subjects with *and* in informal speech; this is considered incorrect in more formal usage - 'John and me are going skiing this weekend' (more correct: John and I)"

In fact for some strange reason, with this informal use it's usually 'me first'. As I said, I hear it quite a lot from people who use otherwise absolutely Standard English, and would never dream of using 'ain't', for example.

As for infer and imply, like you I make the distinction (and teach my students to do the same), but the horse has long bolted on that one, so (to mix my metaphors), there's not much point in crying over spilt milk. In any case, I don't think there's usually much ambiguity; if I did happen to say 'Are you inferring I'm a liar?' we both know what I mean from context.

Why do people do it? Because they pick it up from others, exactly the same as they acquire any other words. Why should we feel the need to question something we are used to seeing. For example, for at least thirty years I only knew the expression "to beg the question" as meaning "to invite/raise" the question, because that's by far and away its most common use. It's only fairly recently that I discovered its original use to describe a logical fallacy.

In fact almost all these controversial alternative uses are clear from context. It's usually pretty clear from context if someone is using 'decimate' to mean totally devastate or as a weird and wonderful military punishment. Similarly, there's never much doubt about how 'beg the question' is being used - I've written a piece on my blog about that one.

I just don't buy the argument that newer uses blur or weaken the original meanings. In English we have lots of words with multiple meanings, which give us no problems in comprehension (although lots of scope for puns) - "right (at least 3 meanings), mean (I wrote an exercise with 10 meanings), fair (ditto with 10), just (ditto with 14)"

I'm not particularly bothered by *myself *, myself, perhaps because I'm Scottish, where it's much more common - "And how's yourself today?"

Burchfield, in the Third Edition of Fowler's, finds the use of myself in a non-emphatic or non-reflexive role (i.e. instead of me) "irreproachable" when it comes after *and*, quoting something he himself had written, which is pretty close to your example:

"... a monitoring exercise undertaken by Professor Denis Donaghue, Mr Andrew Timothy and myself ..."

But obviously something like "The talk will be given by myself" is a bit silly.

I sometimes wonder, however, do we really choose these peeves ourselves, or are they something we pick up from teachers and people around us? Imply/infer, for example is pretty widely complained about on the Internet, but nobody (except me, apparently) bothers about the weakening (in my view) of 'awesome'. But I can live with it.

Warsaw Will Dec-08-2013

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@WW "Awesome" is mainly a colonial or downunder word, or is it now widespread in UK?

jayles Dec-08-2013

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@jayles - by colonial, I assume you mean American. Its current use may have started in America, but it's certainly not an American word, at least not on its original meaning of inspiring awe (1590s).

As we both use this forum, we both obviously use the Internet, where you may have noticed the 'colonials' tend to be in the majority. It's virtually impossible to read any American tech review or watch a tech presentation, or read any comments section without coming across it in its new guise meaning, apparently, anything from quite good to great. It is, in fact, pretty well ubiquitous. My Firefox browser even has an 'awesome bar'. You'd really have to live in a cocoon not to see it pretty constantly.

As far as the UK is concerned, I've noticed that some of the younger generation of British stand-ups are beginning to use it as well, so it's only a matter of time.

I'm being a grumpy old man here, of course, and I have no logical reason to criticise this (relatively) new meaning; I'm quite happy, after all, with the newer uses of decimate and beg the question. It just shows, I think, that we tend to be happy with changes from our generation (for me, all those expressions that came in with the beat and hippy generations - hassle, rip-off etc), but not so much with the ones that come later. In other words pet peeves are purely subjective, and are simply that - peeves - and we shouldn't try to rationalise them by saying that people who use language in a way we personally don't like are somehow 'wrong'.

Warsaw Will Dec-09-2013

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@WW Oh I'm not against "awesome"; just don't recall hearing it in UK on my last furlogh (although I was "gobsmacked" by "OTT" , which were new to me)

jayles Dec-09-2013

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@Warsaw will.. What is your attitude to the change of meaning of such words as "sick" meaning crazy, cool, or insane? I have read posts from friends on facebook where I truly don't know if they disapprove of the contents of their post, (a photograph or link or similar) or think it is really cool? Context often does not tell you the position of the poster, and can lead you to misunderstand the meaning of the comment.

Buzzbuzz10 Dec-11-2013

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@Buzzbuzz10 - I'm not really aware of these new meanings of sick. This could be geographical (I'm British), but probably more likely to do with age.

Every generation of young people invent their own language. Some expressions stick, others fall by the wayside. From around my generation, words which have stayed include "cool" and "hype". But who now says things like "far out", "groovy", "fab", "a bummer", "hey, that's heavy man"? (Some of which I confess to using a long, long time ago.

And in case anyone thinks "like" as a filler is relatively new, I recently heard it on a radio comedy programme from 1961 - one sketch included "You mean like what's my name" as wellas the expressions "hepcat" and "way out, man". That makes it probably from the beat generation, from before the hippy generation (mine).

And hipster (as in someone who is hip) goes back to 1941 when it had a similar meaning to hepcat, which meant they were probably into jazz and swing.

Warsaw Will Dec-11-2013

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@Buzzbuzz10 FYI I am British, based in London now, and "sick" is universal in the pre-teens to 20+ year olds.

Buzzbuzz10 Dec-11-2013

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@Buzzbuzz10 To make it quite clear, I am British and have lived in the UK all of my life. The term is universal in the UK among the age group I referred to. Possibly the word is more urban than rural.

Buzzbuzz10 Dec-11-2013

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I share Buzzbuzz10's occasional confusion when seeing "sick" used online. I've come to the conclusion that if you know the poster is under 30, it almost certainly has a positive meaning (really cool); over 40, probably the original negative meaning (bad, awful, unseemly). Not sure about the 30-somethings.

Will, as for "like" as filler we Americans have been familiar with it since at least 1959, when The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis became a popular TV sitcom. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for the show (which was one of my favorites in my teens), in particular the discussion of Maynard G. Krebs, "American television's first beatnik."

providencejim Dec-11-2013

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@Buzzbuzz10 - well that second part rules me well out, by a few decades even. Perhaps I should also confess that I never use FB and don't currently live in the UK, so I'm not the best person to ask about current UK youth slang - I only know what I hear on Radio 4 extra and read about in the papers.

@providencejim - apparently even earlier; this is from the Online Etymology Dictionary - 'as a presumed emphatic ("going, like, really fast") from 1950, originally in counterculture slang and bop talk.' - counterculture to me is from the hippy times, so I would put both our examples from before that - so bop culture, beat generation and beatniks sound right to me (that was when I was at school).

I remember deliberately learning to use it in my hippy days, and then later trying to "unlearn" it, not totally successfully.

What surprises me is how many people of that generation, or probably younger, criticise kids today for using it, seeming to think that the use of "like" in this way is something relatively new.

I still use it quite frequently, and I don't think it's a problem until it's overdone.

On the other hand it does also have the newer (80s?) meaning of "said" as well - 'And he was like - what's your name, and I was like - Shelley'. When the two are combined it can get a bit much. : I was listening to an Australian comedian the other day, and she used it so frequently it became a bit annoying, even for (relatively tolerant) me.

As a filler at the end of an expression, it's been used for a couple of hundred years - "The word has been used as a postponed filler ("going really fast, like") from 1778". I don't know if you have this use in the States, but it's common in Northern English and some Scottish dialects - 'What are you doing later, like?'.

Warsaw Will Dec-12-2013

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Will, the use of "like" as a "postponed filler," as per your example, I don't think I've ever encountered in American English. I checked your apparent source for the 1778 finding and was disappointed to see no example. I'm wondering just how an 18th-century usage would look.

Just googled "going really fast, like" and found on the first two pages no example of usage that would seem to qualify as a postponed filler. Rather, I see for example a skateboarder saying, "i was skating down a hill and going really fast, like car fast...."

Like many of my (our?) generation I also cringe at the overuse of "like"; it's interesting though how it's used conversationally as part of the phrase "was/were like" to mean "said." Did this start with people meaning "said something to the effect of'"? Seems to have definitely segued into meaning simply "said." Unanswerable question perhaps.

providencejim Dec-12-2013

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Hi, Jim - firstly, like = said is usually thought to be of a Valley girl provenance (see Wikipedia article linked to below). There's a wicked parody of it by Catherine Tait on YouTube (warning - F-word at the end) - .

"Like" at sentence end - I don't think Online Etymology were saying that the actual sentence "going really fast, like" was from 1778, but that this sort of usage could be traced back to 1778. It's quite difficult to find examples in written sources, as this is very much spoken dialect and looking for this use of "like" is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But you'll find a bit of discussion if you google "ending a sentence with like". It seems to be mainly Geordie (Newcastle) and Edinburgh and Irish. (Geordie and Scots share a lot of words and expressions, for example - laddie, lassie, bairn, bonny)

I found this one on a site about Geordie - "Ye knaa what ah mean leik." and if you google "Ken what I mean, like" you'll get a few Scottish examples. And this is from Trainspotting - "Bit ******* late, like." There are also a few hits for "I was only saying, like" where like means roughly "that's all".

And from a book on the use of Irish dialect in films, where they suggest it means something like "as it were":

"Nothin' Frankie. You came up on me so sudden, like." (The Informer)
"We were only young, like" (Nora)
"He's only a young fella, like" (The Wind that shakes the barley)

From another book, from a serving-girl's diary - "First January 1871. This is the beginning of another year and I'm still general servant like, to Mrs Henderson"

A different usage, in Aberdonian / Aberdeenshire dialect the standard (at least stereotypical) greeting is "Fit like, mon?" - "How's things?" (wh is pronounced f in tbis dialect, so fit = whit = what)

Good article about most uses at Wikipedia -

Warsaw Will Dec-13-2013

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As was already mentioned, pre-planning makes perfect sense as "...planning before it's normally considered necessary." The fact that all planning is done in advance is irrelevant. Yes, all pre-planning is planning, but that doesn't mean that all planning is pre-planning.

And calling planning for one's demise "stark" is a bit of an understatement. Consider this: pre-planning for one's death is buying a cemetery plot and a small insurance policy to cover the funeral costs. Planning for one's death is buying a handgun and ammunition, or perhaps rat poison to sprinkle over one's morning cornflakes!

porsche Jan-19-2014

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This one has become one of my major pet peeves, as of late. "Based out of" is simply an Americanization of an existing term. We Americans love to change expressions around; it seems to be in our genetic structure, or something. It is definitely grammatically incorrect.
The main justification for its usage seems to be, "...if someone works mostly outside of a location that is his or her base, then he or she is 'based out of' that location".
Tonight I ran across a Wikipedia article about a radio station with the call letters WAYO. The entire article consists of one sentence:
"'WAYO'-FM is a radio station based out of Rochester, New York, broadcasting at 104.3 MHz on the FM band."
There are many people out there with greater knowledge of English than me, but I spent 32 years in broadcasting and I can safely say that there are few, if any people that know more about it than I do, and I can guarantee that it's impossible for a radio station to operate outside of its location for ANY length of time. Obviously it can broadcast beyond city limits, but it can only do that from within the station.
Therefore, the argument I mentioned that attempts to justify the use of the term "based out of" holds no water as far as I'm concerned. It's simply trying to justify the growing misuse of the term "based in".

VegasDJ Jun-10-2015

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As far as the phrase "pre-planning" (planning something before you plan it) goes, it's as ridiculous and rhetorical as two of my other pet peeves, "pre-heat" (heating and oven before you heat the oven) and "pre-authorization" (authorizing something before it's authorized). Whether you plan something before it's considered necessary, it's still planning. If was in 5th grade and planning to go to college, am I actually pre-planning to go to college because I don't have to plan to go until I get into high school?
Obviously another Americanization of a perfectly good "pre-existing" (something that exists before it exists, like a pre-existing condition) word.
We LOVE to complicate things, don't we? LOL

VegasDJ Jun-10-2015

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Glad to find someone on the same wavelength on these two usages as I, VegasDJ ;-).

providencejim Jun-11-2015

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Yeah, this is long past the original thread. My understanding of this semantically meaningless expression ("based out of") is as an attempt at "operating out of", derived from "based in", originated and perpetuated by people with limited cognitive or expressive power.
(I found this forum by Googling "based out of". Incidentally, I'm a scientific editor, mostly for non-native English speakers, to none of whom it would ever occur to use this repellent expression).
Will its continued appearance debase the language? I trust only locally, and that we can keep it, like many other expressions, out of common usage by continuing to edit it out, we valiant proofreaders and editors.

jim nelson Feb-29-2016

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This is similar to the rising popularities of using the word ‘couple’ without the necessary, following ‘of’ and those silly people answering things “yeah it is.” with a negative inflection. The latter has about run its course, thankfully, but the other two will be with us for a while yet, I fear. Hopefully though, we’ll not be too old when these heinous missteps finally die in a fire (????) like they should have done many moons ago.

JimmyTheCripple Oct-04-2018

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