Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Episode 172: The Great Outdoors Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 172: The Great Outdoors

Record Date: October 31, 2022

Air Date: November 2, 2022



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook

Have you ever felt boxed in? Like you just wanted to get away? Away from people and the sounds of civilization? Have you ever wanted to get away from the obligations of day-to-day life? Feel free and just have space? Perhaps you need to visit the Great Outdoors. 


What exactly are The Great Outdoors? 

The Free Dictionary by Farlex shares 


the great outdoors

Collectively, all outdoor space, especially wild places used for recreational activities such as hiking or camping; nature. 


It's great to get away from the city every now and then and spend a bit of time in the great outdoors! 


We lived right at the base of the mountains, so we always spent our free time in the great outdoors as kids.

End quote 

Okay, let’s explore how we got here. 

Oxford English Dictionary gives the primary definition of outdoors as 


Out of doors; in or into the open air.

End quote 

And they share that this usage has been in print since around the mid 1700s. The concept of the great outdoors, however, was born in the idea of wide open spaces. And this idea was seen in print as early as the mid 1400s. 

According to Oxford English Dictionary, Open Spaces means,


Of land, an expanse of ground, etc.: free from anything which might hinder travel over it or seeing across it; clear. Of a view: free from obstructions. Cf. open space n. 

End quote 

The work Vegetius De Re Militari was written around 1408 and translated to English around 1450. One piece includes 


Hold the in a plain place and in even field, the which is open and not cumbered nay letted with shrubs nay weeds.

End Quote

Holde þe in a playn place and in euene feeld, þe whiche is opoun [L. patentia] and noȝt cumbred ne letted wiþ schrobbes ne wodes.

So way back in the early 1400s, dude is essentially saying,

“Go get you some wide-open spaces - go spend some time in the great outdoors.” 

The term and specific meaning of The Great Outdoors came about a little later. The definition provided by Oxford English Dictionary for this usage is 


The world out of doors, the open air; = out of doors n. Frequently in the great outdoors: country removed from urban development or influence; the great open spaces. 

End Quote 

The earliest attestation I was able to find in print appeared in the Austin Weekly Statesman September 20, 1883 out of Austin, Texas.

From the segment Our Girls 


End Quote 

This is an interesting perspective for this timeframe. 

1890 work by William Henry Harrison Murray titled Lake Champlain & its Shores


You can see how little of that knowledge which is profitable..has come from the study of the library, and how much has come from the great outdoors.

End quote 

There is an intriguing story in the October 04, 1900 edition of the Arizona Republican out of Phoenix, Arizona. 

The story is titled 


End Quote 

It contains the following:


End quote 

The collection Trade Wind Lyrics of Aloha Land And Other Verses by Herbert M. Ayres was published in 1916. The piece, The Way of Summer, contains the following,


End quote  

I really like this. It just feels good to read it. 

Arizona republican. [volume], May 06, 1920, Section Two, Page PAGE FIVE, Image 15

About Arizona republican. [volume] (Phoenix, Ariz.) 1890-1930 

April 24, 1921, Automobile Section of the Arizona republican out of Phoenix, Arizona

Richmond planet. [volume], May 03, 1924, Page 7, Image 7

About Richmond planet. [volume] (Richmond, Va.) 1883-1938


End quote 

Evening star. [volume], January 28, 1929, Image 39

About Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972 

The Waterbury Democrat, September 12, 1932, Waterbury, Connecticut. 

We’ll get to our modern examples, right after we take a moment to say thank you to our sponsors. 

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

You can help support this educational artform and get awesome perks along the way! Tiers start at $3 a month, which get you our polls and community-only discussions, early access to the podcast, and the behind the scenes video for each episode so you can watch along as we make the show. 

At $10 you’ll also get original digital artwork from Shauna once a month featuring exclusive art about an idiom or other turn of phrase. At $15, you’ll also get personal on-air recognition like Pat Rowe does every episode. And of course huge thanks goes to the top spot among our Patrons, our Dean of Learning, Mary Halsig-Lopez. Thank you so much to Mary and all of our patrons. 

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. 


Modern Uses


Depeche Mode B-sides - The Great Outdoors

This instrumental piece is the B-side of the single "Get The Balance Right"

Get yourself ready for nice, easy listening… 

The Great Outdoors is a 1988 movie. According to IMDB in this comedy, A Chicago man and his family go camping with his obnoxious brother-in-law.

The storyline by Nick Riganas states 


Nostalgic about the good old days in the honeymoon cabin, the patriarch Chet and the Ripley family set off to the idyllic woods of Wisconsin for the summer vacation. However, their plans for a peaceful family bonding in the heart of the untamed nature will be thwarted, when the high-rolling brother-in-law Roman and the snotty Craig family decide to crash the party. Eventually, as the two families try to have a good time together, a seemingly endless series of misfortunes and mini-disasters with thirsty leeches, cunning racoons and a mythical wild bear, threaten to ruin the vacation. What will it take to salvage the weekend?

End Quote 

Trailer - 

Great Outdoors, out of California

Great Outdoors (GO) is 


an all-volunteer nonprofit organization predominately serving the GLBTQA+ community. We provide low-cost outdoor activities, programs, education, and leadership training to members. Our activities include camping trips, hiking, backpacking, historical tours, whitewater rafting, canoes, pool parties, kayaking, 4x4 trail outings, bike rides, social gatherings, game nights, speaker programs, lectures, and other interesting events. Great Outdoors seeks to instill in its members a respect and appreciation for the environment and a desire that it be protected for this generation and for many to come.

End Quote 

Great Outdoors Month - National Parks Service 


On June 5th of 2019, the US Senate officially designated June 2019 as ’Great Outdoors Month.’

‘Great Outdoors Week’ began under President Clinton in 1998 and has grown under the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations into a month-long celebration of the outdoors. Since 2008, governors from across the country have joined in designating June as a month to celebrate the great outdoors and more than half the states have already proclaimed June 2019 as Great Outdoors Month!

End Quote 

They even have a map of all the proclamations across the states:

The Great Outdoors is a collection of piece on Saatchi Art.

It consists of 12 Artworks curated by Brooke Sauer

The series is done all in blues and white space. They are truly beautiful, in my opinion. Each has a slightly different vibe, depicting different aspects and regions of the outdoors.

Wrap Up

Chapter 12 of F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, holds this idea


“For a transitory enchanted moment, man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

End Quote 

I love that I can gaze across a vast landscape and enjoy it as a whole or look closely at one leaf to see its detail. I marvel at how incredible we are as humans. Whether we have a creator or exist by chance this way, our brains and our bodies are capable of so much. That we can not only see and interpret the world around us but also appreciate the beauty of it is incredible. I hope as humans we never lose our sense of wonder.


That’s all we have time for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


Poll time! 

In a recent poll, we asked Patrons, 

Have you ever used a fire extinguisher?

60% of our patrons say they’ve never used an extinguisher. The remaining 40% selected “Yes - on a real fire.”.

There were no comments on this one… and I have to wonder if this is because our patrons were not ready to share the specific circumstances in which they found themselves needing to use a fire extinguisher. 

Shauna, were you in the yes or no group? 


I was in the yes group. And it was an actual fire but it was also for training purposes… so it was a controlled fire. Since there were actual flames, I claimed the Yes - on a real fire. 

Dan, you have way more experience with fires than most of us I believe… have anything to share on this? 


I did start my career in the fire service, and we even used fire extinguishers on occasion, too. 


Can you provide a brief lesson on how to use the extinguisher in case one of our listeners ever needs it?  


It’s pretty intuitive, and there is even a helpful mnemonic to remember… PASS Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.

You pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle to start the spray, and sweep from side to side at the base of the fire. If the extinguisher doesn’t do the trick, evacuate from the area to a safe location. 

If you want to take part in our silly polls and sometimes learn new things while you’re at it, head over to to see what we have this week!



Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember, 


Words belong to their users. 

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