Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Zone Out

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 16, 2011

Those who zone out appear to not notice or stop being interested in what is happening around you.  Some appear to merely lost their concentration while others go from disconnecting to falling asleep.  Like the expression space out, the history on this expression is also very recent.

On November 22, 2009 the Boston Herald published a story entitled, “Stars Align For Galaxy” with the following opening lines:

He looked zoned out sitting behind the table, talking about a season that’s gone so right for himself and the Los Angeles Galaxy.  Finally, Landon Donovan paused and almost asked permission to speak candidly.

Back in 2007, SecuriTeam published a short-run comic strip entitled, “Zoned Out” created by V Shane.  No one knows for sure why it had such a short run. 

The Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul published a review of the movie “Saving Grace” on August 4, 2000 that began with:

This feel-good comedy isn’t really a drug movie, at least not by the standards of the ’70s that gave birth to the zoned-out humor of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.

Just a few months earlier on April 28, 2000, the Los Angeles Times wrote a review of the movie “Committed.”  Starring Luke Wilson and  Heather Graham, the movie deals with a relationship 597 days after the wedding date.  The reviewer had this to say about the movie:

Although Heather Graham has exactly the kind of zoned-out, true-believer rigidity the part calls for, it is a delicate thing making people who flirt with sanity appealing, and by the film’s end Joline’s welcome is looking a bit worn.

Back on March 9, 1985 the Palm Beach Daily News ran Rex Reed’s article dealing with the offbeat underworld thriller movie, “Into The Night.”  It read in part:

Chock full of stars in cameo appearances, Into The Night is about a nerd whose inability to sleep leads him into the bizarre and zoned-out world of Hollywood after dark.  Ed Okin has tired blood.  He feels disoriented.  He’s sick of hearing people say, “Have a nice day.”

The Oxford Dictionary indicates that “zoned” is a hybrid of zonked and stoned and dates back to the 1970s when the word meant an individual was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While Idiomation can only find published mention of the phrase starting in the mid-1980s, the Oxford Dictionary confirms that the expression was part of the vernacular at least 10 to 15 years prior to that.

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