Getting into the Weeds

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

19 comments on this post.
  1. Elizabeth Lightwood:

    “Into the weeds” is an unfortunate phrase to use in the context of medical marijuana.

  2. Follow the Moon: Astrology of intention and mindfulness « PNC-Minnesota Bureau:

    […] weeds’ come from and does it mean what I think it means?” A short search found this site, The Word Detective, and an illuminating description of the phrase. It’s interesting that this metaphor came up for […]

  3. Mark:

    As a career fine-dining server, I always assumed the phrase suggested the idea that the person in question was so overwhelmed that the metaphorical “weeds” had sprung up around them, diminishing their ability to accomplish tasks quickly. I have also heard it described as a state of affairs in which one has several tasks that need to be completed simultaneously, but with little or no time to do so (often because of short-sightedness or carelessness).

  4. Stan:

    After I referenced your post in a discussion of “getting into the weeds” today, one of my readers offered this comment:

    “Acadian French uses a (so far as I know) unique expression: Dans la rhubarbe. (Literal translation: In the rhubarb) It means someone who has “gone off the deep end”, to use an English equivalent. Also sometimes used to describe someone who has lost sight of their goal due to getting sidetracked by minutiae.”

    I don’t know if it predates or postdates the English use of the term.

  5. To make it happen, I write it down:

    […] does “in the weeds” mean?   I mean off track and overwhelmed in this […]

  6. Best Boss You Ever Had | Karl Koelle:

    […] a long way – but it still ended badly.  From my side, pick your catch phrase.  I was down in the weeds too far.  I had my head in the sand and didn’t do everything I could to expand myself and […]

  7. How to Save Your Meeting | Stories Without Borders:

    […] could be that you’re gotten down in the weeds too quickly and stayed there too long. Details are not particularly interesting to listen to anyway, […]

  8. Darel:

    As a real farmer that grows actual food, I have no experience with the aforementioned row crops. That just doesn’t seem like farming to me. Out here we do have weeds. Lots of weeds. When we say we’re in the weeds, we mean that they have gotten away from us, that we didn’t hoe or otherwise cultivate enough when the weeds were just germinating and we may not be able to catch up. We’re so far behind that the weeds may overtake us and we may even lose a crop. In the weeds. Makes me shudder.

  9. MG66:

    I first heard “in the weeds” at my first waiting gig. It meant you were super insane busy. “How you doing Mike?” “Totally in the weeds–just got triple sat and my 6 top thinks they are the only people here!” This is usually said fast and on the move. The upside to in the weeds was when the place was hopping and you had no time for chit-chat, you were making money: “How’s your night?” “Dude,so far deep in the weeds I am building a cabin.”

    I started waiting table in the late 80s. Now, I only hear the term used by other professionals who, like me, worked their way through college and grad school waiting tables. When they (we) say it now, it still means too busy to breathe. Non-former waitstaff don’t get the reference.

    I have never heard it used to mean getting too into the details (as an editor we called that grooving on the minutiae) but perhaps someone who did not get there reference but saw that people were busy attached the term into drilling down into the work.

  10. Robert Simpson:

    Might not it have originated in the 19th century where the wearing of mourning garments was referred to as the weeds? “In the weeds,” though I haven’t found this phrase in the literature, would mean being “in mourning.”

  11. RDSouth:

    I thought it came from helicopter pilots. When they fly very low they can see the ground in great detail, but if they go so low that they are in the weeds, then they get bogged down. This was adapted to briefings, where subordinates who go into too much detail, when what was wanted was an executive summary, are told “I don’t want to get into the weeds on this.”

  12. Brian D Collins:

    I have worked in the restaurant/bar business in New York (city and state)since the late 1960s. The first time I ever heard the phrase “in the weeds” used was in the kitchen of Newman’s Pier Three restaurant in Guilderland, NY in the late 1970s. Ed Newman, the owner and chef, was an avid, if apparently not particularly good, golfer and the phrase came about as the staff’s way of describing problems in the kitchen: “Chef’s in the weeds, again.” Or so I was told at the time by the folks who were working there when I arrived. Of course, the staff may have been pulling the leg of the newbie and taking credit for a phrase that had come from elsewhere, but I do remember having to ask what the phrase meant, not having heard it before.

  13. DJP:

    I’ve used the term for thirty years or so and have no idea from whence it came, certainly not kitchens. My wife aske me to explain the term and it was the “off the beaten track, struggling to make progress and find firm footing” type of answer (similar connotation to “walking through mud”)carrying an inference of being aware of your own lack of progress. Recently I came across an almost identical term (close enough given it was a translation)quoted in a Chinese Buddhist reference from about 1,000 years ago. Close enough for me to suspect the golf, kitchen and outboard motor theories may have come at a later date..

  14. Cliff:

    I do know how when and where the original “in the weeds” came from.

    It’s been used in so many context. A wonderful description of “oh shit” that originated in restaurants in the early 80s.. specifically.. Damon’s. In Florence Kentucky.. on mothers day.
    The day was unbelievably busy. The manager asked the kitchen manager how was the line going… a novel reader.. completely focused on his hundreds of orders in front of him..was totally thrown by the question.. instead of asking are you nuts.. don’t speak to me.. don’t distract me.. his mind clicked to the old can’t see the forest from the trees.. but the words did not come out.. instead.. he said
    I’m in the weeds.
    I know.. I was there.. and over the years have been amazed whenever I hear the phase… used in all different environments.. but still keeping the core.. of.. oh boy..this isn’t good..

  15. Greg Dupuich:

    I believe I heard this years ago at an oval track stockcar race, “he was in the weeds” (not on the track)

  16. ccziv:

    I wonder if the popular TV show “Weeds” has this meaning as a double entendre? (sp?)

  17. Lance:

    Since there are six or seven possible meanings, and this phrase is used for almost any reason, it is meaningless.

  18. Sue Schofield:

    As a matter of fact ‘getting in the weeds’ did indeed start around the early 70’s used as a means of asking for help by waitresses and waiters serving dinners, overwhelmed by the chaos of waiting on up to six or more parties. Your mind can only balance so much, and this was an urgent call for help. I can confirm this as we at Valles Steak House (Rochester NY) were possibly the first to coin the phrase. Since that time I was surprised to hear that phrase from a few sources, one of which a Congressman.

  19. Brian D. Collins:

    @Sue Schofield: I worked in the Albany Valle’s around ’75-’77. There was a steady flow of cooks back and forth between Valle’s and Newman’s Pier Three where I worked for maybe 6 or 8 months around ’77, ’78. (see above) While I don’t remember hearing the phrase at Valle’s Albany originally, it took root there soon after. There was a lot of moving around in the Valle’s chain, especially among assistant managers; it would not surprise me to learn that the phrase had flowed in either direction.

Leave a comment