Seriously, When Did ‘Call In Sick’ Turn Into ‘Call Out Sick’?

About ten years ago the hardwording staff proposed a federal government Syn Tax, “a fine for misuse of the English language. At a quarter a pop, that could wipe out the deficit in no time.”

Some six years later, we posted this linguistic lament under the headline, Seriously, When Did ‘Based On’ Turn Into ‘Based Off Of’?

Plug “based off of” into the Googletron and you get over 17 million search results, among them this admirable dissent from

Once again we say: There should be a Syn Tax – a monetary fine – for every grammatical error in America. Google can be the referee.

Rest assured, splendid readers, we would wipe out the national debt in a matter of months. And that’s just from tracking our pre-verbal president. (See his Associated Press interview this week for details.)

Caller Question: “Hi, Grammar Girl. This is Ellen from Newark, California. I have a question. I am 60 years old, and I always use the phrase or heard the phrase ‘calling in sick’ if I couldn’t make it to work. Or if someone couldn’t make it to work, they would call in to say they were sick and couldn’t come to work. But in recent years, like within the last 10 years, I have heard family members say they’re ‘calling out’ and that sounded very strange to me. But even today in the ‘Washington Post,’ there was an article and sure enough it used the phrase ‘calling out sick’ because of COVID. Employees are calling out. So I just was curious about the phrases ‘calling in sick’ and ‘calling out sick.’ Thanks a lot.”

Thanks for the question, Ellen.

I’ve always said “call in sick.” The way I think of it is that you call in to the office to say you’ll be out sick. And if I call in and you take the call, you would tell everyone else that Mignon is going to be off sick or out sick today.

Grammar Girl goes on to say that “call in sick” is the most common phrase, although – in our experience – apparently not at NPR.

Regardless, we’re glad we got that sorted. Next up: When did “even so” turn into “even still”?

We’ll get back to you on that.

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4 Responses to Seriously, When Did ‘Call In Sick’ Turn Into ‘Call Out Sick’?

  1. Doug Miller says:

    Brilliant! Then there is also the meme of “calling in well.” I.e., “life is short; I’m taking this day to do something fun!”

  2. Doug Miller says:

    Wait, when I saw “pre-verbal president,” I thought it was going to be Biden! Don’t scare me like that. Phew. (Joe does have public speaking issues!)

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