Friday, August 11, 2006

Flesh out vs. Flush out

These two phrases, "flesh out" and "flush out", do not mean the same thing and are not interchangeable.

You flesh out a plan. Building the plan is akin to putting flesh on a skeletal frame. Fleshing out is building up not searching out.

Your hunting dog flushes out the pheasants from the tall grass so that you can get a good shot at them. You flush out things that are hidden.

You could flesh out a plan to flush out the pheasants.

(flayed skeleton from this anatomy chart)


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14 comments:

The Virtual Ranger said...

Thanks for the elucidation... but does anyone ever actually confuse those two?

Richard Koehler said...

You can expect that an outburst like the post above, typically has a trigger. In this case multiple instances of the incorrect use of "flush out" for "flesh out".

I imagine the same thing caused the "a lot" is two words rant from Overcompensating that I referenced a while ago.

allineed said...

I randomly stumbled on this post when Googling the mystery of these phrases.. one of my lecturers often interchanges them though it's obvious he's meaning "flesh out." I had an "a-HA!!" moment when reading this, knowing that someone else gets a bit irked by this topic...

Anonymous said...

I hear this CONSTANTLY among my colleagues and can hardly sit still and not correct them. Flush, this flush that...they mean flesh!!!

Anonymous said...

These phrases are still very simliar in meaning to me because for example to put flesh a plan you need to flush out many of the unknown issues/tasks/details etc.
Am I wrong?

Monsta said...

My last two bosses always talked of flushing out plans... I never took the opportunity to correct them (and neither did anyone else, apparently). It drives me nuts when people use phrases that they don't understand!

bmatichuk said...

I think people mean that they "flush" out the details in order to "flesh" out a plan. When someone is thinking in this way, they are thinking about ideas that are as elusive as birds hiding in forest.

Josh said...

I've been super-annoyed by "flush out" lately, and was amused to come across many with the same annoyance. I can see the argument for using "flush" to bring out into the open, but I don't buy that reasoning when I see it misused... particularly when you're talking to a client about how you're going to "flush out" their idea. I see building, or "fleshing," much more useful of a sentiment than "flushing." So, I will continue to be annoyed.

Anonymous said...

Often these are interchangeable: flush out the details = flesh out the idea.

Richard said...

Anonymous, I think the whole point of the post is that flesh out and flush out are interchanged (incorrectly), but not interchangeable. Flesh out the details is to take the details and put them on a skeleton and flesh it out. Flush out the details is to go and find the hidden details (perhaps hidden in tall grass) and then make them visible. The phrases have different connotations.

gabrielleblack said...

Wow. I just got into a controversy over this which seems moot to me. I think people say "flush" because they don't realize (or are being told wrong to being with) that what is meant is "flesh" and the trail of incorrectness is perpetuated from there. Just like the English language, unfortunately when enough people get something wrong, it somehow becomes right by majority use. So two "wrongs" don't make a "right," but if enough of your friends say something wrong and influence others to do so as well, it will end up in the dictionary. Another annoying topic in itself.

Dano said...

Thank you for clarifying. I hear these two being used incorrectly in meetings regularly. Also, great examples used in the comments.

Breadstix said...

When I hear people talk about "flushing" things out, I have a hard time not picturing their ideas swirling down the crapper...

Shasbot said...

Even worse when this atrocity is put in e-mails over and over again. Like fingernails on a chalkboard. Right up there with something being a "mute" point. AAAAGGGGGHHHHH! And if I GENTLY suggest that someone make a slight adjustment, I'm the b****! Don't even get me started on "point in case"....