Out and about

“Out and about” means to be away from home or work doing things and going multiple places.

Today's story: Italy lockdowns
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Out and about

Today’s expression is a quirky one—it’s “out and about.” What does it mean to be “out and about”? It generally means to be away from home or work and to be doing multiple things, going multiple places.

For example, if you went from your house to a pharmacy and back home, I would not say that you’re “out and about.” I would just say that you went out. But if you went to the pharmacy, and then stopped for a coffee, and then returned a book to the library, and then went to the market for some shopping, and ran into a friend on the way home—in that case, I’d say you were “out and about.”

We often say “out and about” if a person has started to move again after having had to stay at home for a while. You know that feeling, the day after you recover from being sick for a few days—you go outside for the first time and it just feels amazing. Human contact for once! Fresh air! If someone asks how you’re feeling, you might answer—I’m feeling great. I was out and about earlier today and now I’m back home. I was out and about—I went out to do a bunch of things.

On a typical March 17—not this March 17, but on a typical March 17—people are out and about, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. In many towns and cities in America, and certainly in Ireland, people dress up in green, go outside, watch the parade, catch some traditional Irish music, go to the bar, raise a glass, and celebrate with friends. People are out and about; they’re moving around from place to place.

During a winter storm, the weatherman might tell you: You don’t want to be out and about today. I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in America we have hyper-local news stations. Most medium-sized cities and above have their own television stations, and they all produce local news. And the biggest thing on local news is the weather. And the biggest story for local weather forecasters is a big snowstorm. So we have local news anchors dress up and go outside and stand in the snow, telling everyone else to stay home. You don’t want to be out and about tonight, they’ll tell you, as they clearly ignore their own advice. If you don’t have to be out and about, stay home, they say.

To be “out and about” is a compliment to an elderly person. Some elderly people just stay home most of the time. But others are out and about; they prize their independence and like to stay active.

My company has instructed us to work from home, so that’s what I’ll be doing the next few weeks. I won’t be out and about; I’ll go out if I have to, but for the most part, I’ll stay home. No sense being out and about when there’s a deadly virus going around.

Quote of the week

Today’s quote of the week is from Tom Hanks, the actor. He tested positive for the virus and has quarantined himself in Australia while he recovers. But he has remained calm, followed all the guidance, and managed to stay upbeat. So here is his quote, from Twitter. He said, “Remember, despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball.”

Huh? If you saw the movie “A League of Their Own,” you’ll recognize the line. The movie was about a women’s professional baseball league that started during World War II, while the men were off fighting in the war. Tom Hanks plays the coach. And in one scene, of the players starts crying. But Tom Hanks’s character, a veteran baseball coach, protests, “There is no crying in baseball!”

So Tom Hanks’s quote on Twitter is a reference to that movie. It’s a reassuring quote, he’s telling us that some things don’t change, even if the world seems a little crazy right now. “Remember,” Tom Hanks said, “despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball.”


I hope you’re staying safe. I’ll be saving a lot of time by not commuting, not traveling, and I’ll dedicate that time to thinking of ways to improve the Plain English experience for all of you. And if you find yourself with some free time, then feel free to explore our catalog of old episodes. We have 244 episodes!

You know, JR and I are working hard on a rebuild of the web site, so that means we’re looking at a lot of old episodes as we work on this transition. There are some good ones. A few not-as-good ones! But mostly some really good ones. We’ve covered a lot of ground together, haven’t we?

I wish you luck and good health, whether you are in an affected area or not. We have a lot of listeners in Italy—a lot of listeners in Italy—and I hope that you are all managing to stay safe, stay healthy, stay in touch with your friends and loved ones. And have faith that this will be over some day. We don’t know when, but it will be over soon, so hang in there until then.

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Story: Italy lockdowns