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Why do people say "out of" in the following example and similar ones? Is it only NAmE?

I was living out of my car back then.

Some might say that you should say "out of" since you're not always in your car, but a similar case could be made for a house. I'm not always in it, but say I live in a house.

I haven't been able to find anything relevant on the usage or origin.

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  • Presumably the expression refers to someone forced to keep all their belongings in their car, so they have to go there for a change of clothes or whatever. Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 12:59
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    Both expressions are used. "Out of" leaves a little leeway for where you actually sleep.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 22:25

2 Answers 2

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I believe it originates from the phrase living out of a suitcase. Supporting this is a Google ngram plot showing the phrase with suitcase preceding car by almost 30 years.

Lexico defines live out of a suitcase as

Live or stay somewhere on a temporary basis and with only a limited selection of one's belongings, typically because one's occupation requires a great deal of traveling.

Living out of a car is typically done because one lacks a traditional residence, but the idea is similar in that all of one's belongings are in the car.

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    I think you are right. I always feel that "living out of a suitcase" implies that the person has all his belongings in a suitcase but sleeps in hotel and boarding house rooms. "Living out of a car" gives me the same impression but implies that the person has more belongings or, possibly, larger pieces of equipment.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 22:47
  • It makes sense. I can live with it as a hyperbolic offshoot of "living out of a suitcase!" :) Thanks
    – Apollonian
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 5:06
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In USA, there is emerging community of co-called van-dwellers who live in a van/minivan/car/RV either full time or part time (often several months), spending most of the time either camping on public lands for free, campgrounds, or "stealth-camping" in cities.

For example, Quartzsite RV show brings together about 150 thousands people.

Saying "living out of (car/van/RV) means for those nomads means "my vehicle is my kitchen and bedroom, living room is outdoors".

Another saying they use is "I am not homeless - I am house-free" (if van/RV is their only residence, meaning they do not pay the mortgage).

RV = recreation vehicle = campervan.

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