Giving out, Irish style

September 7, 2013

The phrasal verb give out has several common senses:

distribute – ‘she gave out free passes to the gig’

emit – ‘the machine gave out a distinctive hum’

break down, stop working – ‘at the end of the marathon her legs gave out’

become used up – ‘their reserves of patience finally gave out’

declare, make known – ‘management gave out that it was unsatisfied with productivity levels’

In Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale I read an example of this last sense: ‘At the moment the Communist Party is giving out that he was off his head.’ Had Fleming been Irish, this line would be ambiguous – give out in Irish English commonly means complain, grumble, moan; or criticise, scold, reprimand, tell off.

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