Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 10:58:22 -0700
From: "A. Vine"
Subject: Re: "Is it raining out?"

Gerald Cohen wrote:
> A 5/14/98 ads-l message asked:
> >Is it due to regional differences that when asking about the weather some
> >say,"is it raining out?" and others simply, "is it raining?"? why include
> >the "out"? it's not raining in.
> ----The "out" here possibly originated in sentences of the type "Is it
> nice out?" (where "out" = "outside" is justifiably used). Possible
> answer (with transference of "out" from the preceding question): "No, it's
> raining out." (where "out" is unnecessary). Then the latter sentence could
> be turned into a question: "Is it raining out?"
> In the arcana of general-linguistic theory is a "Law of Least Effort,"
> according to which speakers use only the minimal effort necessary to get
> their point across. This so-called law is contradicted by "out" in "Is it
> raining out?"

In thinking about this phenomenon, I wonder if there isn't something else at
work here. Language has sound and rhythm. If a phrase doesn't sound right to
me, I try to change it so that it does. Whether something sounds right is
related to a combination of usage I've heard and how a phrase fits in with the
sound and rhythm of the rest of the spoken language. This was alluded to
indirectly when someone mentioned (I'm sorry, I don't remember who it was) that
"It's raining out" could be in response to "What's it like out?", or something
along that line.

I'm not limiting this to "Is it raining out?"; I've been looking at the many
phrases with redundant semantics which have been posted to the list.

An observation only.
bite the wax tadpole