I read the following sentence in Maureen Dowd’s article titled The Saudi Ambassador of Sangfroid in today’s (October 22) New York Times:

“When I was walking around a luxury mall in Riyadh with Jubeir, the robed, bearded religious police bore down on us, pointing at me and scolding in Arabic. They say they can see the outline of your body,” Jubeir translated. It took a surprisingly long time, given his stature as a top adviser to the future King Abdullah, but he talked the mutawwa out of beheading or lashing me."

It seemed to me that the usage of out of in the sentence “He talked the mutawwa out of beheading or lashing me” is very different from the out of in the sense of from, without, apart that I got used to.

Does out of here mean not to (do)? Or, should I take it as talk someone out of (doing) in the sense of discuss with (persuade) someone thoroughly for him not to do? Is "talk somebody out of" a very popular usage?


To talk someone out of something means to "persuade someone not to do something". A related phrase is to talk someone into doing something, which means to persuade them to do it.

In this context, Jubeir is trying to persuade the mutawwa not to punish the writer for wearing what they considered indecent clothing. Apparently the persuasion was difficult, for Ms. Dowd records that it "took a surprisingly long time".

And yes, talk someone out of something is a rather popular idiom, used in many contexts.

  • There's also the equally common talk someone into, where in OP's context Jubeir could be trying to persuade the mutawwa to spare the writer, as opposed to not punish him. – FumbleFingers Nov 1 '11 at 15:35
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    And talk him through sth (explain sth), talk him up/down (emphasise his good/bad qualities), talk him round (to a position, usually of co-operation). Plus probably some others I can't think of. – FumbleFingers Nov 1 '11 at 15:53

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