Where does the expression far out come from?
I had to phone someone so I picked on you /
Hey, that's far out so you heard him too! /
Switch on the TV we may pick him up on channel two
(This is a lyric from "Starman" by David Bowie)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines far out as:
Their first quotation is an 8th November 1954 Time Magazine article entitled "Far-Out Words for Cats":
We can see this term beginning to emerge in Simon Michael Bessie's 1938 book Jazz Journalism: The Story of the Tabloid Newspapers:
Whilst the book is about tabloid papers and not jazz, it shows "far out" being applied to something novel and possibly avant-garde.
Here's Esquire's 1946 Jazz Book applying it to jazz of the most progressive kind:
Here's another snippet, from a 1947 The Jazz Record:
And from the next page:
These may not be the exact use of the phrase, but give an indication of how it came around.
It appears to have used as a set term in a publication of the South Dakota State University sometime in 1954:
Billboard of 24 April 1954 reviews Les Elgart Orchestra's song "East is East":
Billboard of 26 June 1954 reviews Serena Shaw's "St. Louis Blues":
The same November 8, 1954 Time Magazine cited by the OED had another article that used:
as in Beyond Great :)
Robert Frost and Aldous Huxley wrote "Neither Far Out or In Deep" in 1939. I think that might be a better starting place
The words far and out have been around forever but John Denver made the phrase "far out" popular.
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