December 8, 2005

psych out

Posted in Idioms at 10:03 am by Feng

psych out — two meanings: one is to anticipate. For instance, “we cannot psych out his intention”. Another one is to lose confidence (usually in the passive tense). Here, we talk about the usage of the second meaning. In Friends, Ross said to Rachel that because of his failed marriage and suckful bad experience in getting along with ex-girlfriends, he “got completely psyched out” until he met Julie in Beijing. This was a big blow to Rachel as she started to like Ross.



  1. vdovault said,

    A US phrase that is similar to the first meaning (which is really more ‘to analyze’ or ‘to figure out’ than ‘to anticipate’) is to ‘suss out’. So if you hear, for example on an American TV detective show that the police are sussing out someone’s motive, then they are trying to analyze someone’s reasons for commiting a crime.

    In the second case if you are trying to ‘psych out’ someone, you are using what Americans sometimes call ‘head games’ or psychological ploys and maneuvers to manipulate someone into doing something you want them to do. The classic example of a ‘head game’ is again in the context of an American TV detective or police show, where during the interrogation of a suspect, two police officers will play ‘good cop, bad cop’. One officer will do everything he or she can to scare, anger and alienate the suspect (the ‘bad cop’) while the second officer (the ‘good cop’) will try to befriend the suspect and show concern for the suspect’s welfare. The idea is that the ‘bad cop’ will steer the suspect into trusting the ‘good cop’ and the suspect will cooperate with (and perhaps confess guilt to) the friendly ‘good cop’.

    By the way are you familiar with the site It has examples of (mostly Asian) mistranslations into English that native English speakers find funny. Now that I think of it, I bet I would sound pretty dumb trying to speak Chinese to a native Chinese speaker (much less having trouble trying to learn a character based language).

    This is a really cool idea for a blog!

  2. Adam Wolf said,

    The word suckful doesn’t quite work. It’d have to be sucky, or simply “bad.”

  3. Feng said,

    I heard a lecturer used this “suckful” word quite a few times in his lectures. But I think you are right; I cannot find it in the dictionaries (I also cannot find “sucky”). So “bad” seems a suitable choice. Thanks for poininting out this.

  4. very nice blog!mary

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