Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 15, 2011
In honour of the total lunar eclipse taking place later on tonight, Idiomation decided to research the expression “space out” and include it in “On The Outs” week here at Idiomation.
To space out means to become disoriented or temporarily lost in one’s mind — oftentimes attributed to drug usage, prescribed or otherwise — compared to what is considered right thinking.
On May 20, 1979 Pastor John MacArthur delivered a sermon he had written entitled “The Believer’s Armor, Part 3: The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace.” The sermon is now posted to his website. In his sermon, he wrote:
We had knife fights all the time and in the, in the boy’s room when you go in they had a fuse box and on the fuse box the kids would open it and they’d leave marijuana cigarettes burning and everybody would come in and take a drag, and this was in 1950, I don’t know, sometime in 19 the 50’s you know and, and of drugs it wasn’t ah, it wasn’t like it … we think as something very modern no, no it was going on all the time then, kids were spaced out all the time. We had a parking lot for the kids that drove to school in Junior High, you know because they were so old and we had cars.
Just a few years earlier, on October 15, 1975 after Patricia “Tania” Hearst (granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and great-granddaughter of millionaire George Hearst) was being tried for her role as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Kidnapped on February 5, 1974 at age 19, she was captured after identified as a willing participant in the robbery of the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1974. She was captured and charged, and in the course of her court case, the Beaver County Times ran an article entitled, “Patty’s Test Results Spaced Out” which reported:
Results of three psychiatric examinations of Patricia Hearst, whom defense attorneys have described as “spaced out” should be in the mail to a federal court judge today. However, the psychiatric records of the 21-year-old newspaper heiress are to remain sealed by court order to all but the prosecution and defense attorneys directly involved in that case.
The drug Ketamine was used to anesthetize animals and children back in the early 1960s. It was classified as a “dissociative anesthetic” due in part to a study done by researchers E.F. Domino, P. Chodoff and G. Corssen back in 1965 that reported on the combined effects of sedation/analgesia and hallucinations. The findings report in part:
The first human was given ketamine in an intravenous subanesthetic dose on August 3, 1964. Guenter [Corssen, M.D.] and I gradually increased the dose from no effect, to conscious but “spaced out,” and finally to enough for general anesthesia. Our findings were remarkable! The overall incidence of side effects was about one out of three volunteers. Frank emergence delirium was minimal. Most of our subjects described strange experiences like a feeling of floating in outer space and having no feeling in their arms or legs.
Despite Idiomation’s most ardent efforts, an earlier published version could not be located. However, it is clear that in 1965 the expression “space out” was understood by medical researchers and medical professionals — albeit within quotation marks — therefore it must have been in use at least in the years leading up to 1965. Idiomation pegs the expression to sometime in the early 1960s.