Big issue: flesh it out or flush it out

First off, let me say I’m on the flesh it out side of the fence, but Grace brought this burning issue to my attention a while ago, and now every time I hear “We’ll flush it out” I want to scream.   This is what I think – someone a long time ago said “flesh it out”, and someone incorrectly heard “flush it out”, and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.

Here’s the thing – flush it out only makes sense if your getting rid of something, and start all over.   Think about things your flush out – get it?   If you put something together that’s 50% done, those are the bones of the project – it next needs flesh, “flesh it out”.   Makes sense doesn’t it?   Someone is going to have to explain to me flush in that context.   YOU CAN’T.

Anyway, I got the bright idea to run a poll.   Let’s put this to bed. Of course I’ll flush out the results if I don’t agree. ;)


  • Ryan M.

    For all intensive purposes, I could care less who votes for “flush it.” Their retarded.

  • Spencer

    I’m sure hoping your misspelling of their was on purpose ;)

  • http://www.sandishelton.com/blog sandi shelton

    There’s NO WAY you’re wrong on this one! Things have to be fleshed out, absolutely. It’s good that someone is paying attention to this stuff…otherwise, where is our civilization going? We have to hold the line somewhere. (Also, I have a friend who says we have to “nip it in the butt.” MAKES ME CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!)

  • Spencer

    Sandi – I’m not sure your friend isn’t referring to something entirely different. That’s definitely worse than flush.

    OK Ryan, I’m retarded – I just notice the “all intensive purposes” and I’ll give the english teacher the benefit of the doubt. Of course, up until college I didn’t realize it was “all intents and purposes”. I think of all the things I learned in college, that’s the one I may be most grateful for.

  • grace

    The other way “flush it out” can be used correctly is when hunting. As in, “The team of hounds was successful in flushing out the fox.”

    But in a conference room in an office setting, it’s just plain wrong. And I hear it all the time. Along with many, many other very, very incorrect things….

  • Spencer

    The people I know that say it are as much hunters as Hillary Clinton is.

  • Ryan M.

    Yes, they’re was misspelled on purpose. Also, to clarify, it should be “for all intents and purposes” and “couldn’t care less.

  • Spencer

    Really – I’ve read people mentioning “couldn’t care less vs. could care less” and don’t get that one.

  • Brian

    @Spencer – Thanks for the post. I needed the information for a work project. Much appreciated!

    PS-Not to be picky, but it’s “all intents and purposes”. :-)

    • Spencer

      @Brian -

      I think Ryan was being sarcastic.

  • janet

    - No more retarded than you saying “their” for “they are or they’re”

  • Spencer

    @janetSARCASM

    Geeze, do people read the comments before they comment?

  • Bill

    I think either could be used depending on context.
    For example:

    Flesh it out – to build upon a basic idea or concept
    Flush it out – to make somthing clearer by bringing it into the open

  • Darren

    I’m not so sure I get the “flesh it out” concept. I understand the “putting flesh” on a project or idea concept, but where does the out come into play? Wouldn’t you be “fleshing it on” or “over”? why “out”?

  • Spencer

    Flesh it out is similar to saying work it out. Regardless – if that’s your meaning, to work something out, to add flesh or details to something, flush makes absolutely no sense.

  • Alfred

    You didn't ask me to be right, only to explain it. I CAN! The term is often used as a form of "ferreting out" information, as in a court room. One "washes" away the distractions and inaccuracies and is left with a final truth. Therefore, "flush" could work as easily and correctly as "flesh". More so, perhaps.
    And while we're on the subject, "I couldn't care less" means I have no care in me whatsoever. "I could care less" obviously means I still have at least a little care to offer.

  • rich

    BOTH can be CORRECT. You all missed the relevant definition for FLUSH which has nothing to do with toilets. Birds, like answers to problems, may be hidden and therefore need to be FLUSHED out. Or as the book "Common Errors in English Usage: The Book" (2nd Edition, November, 2008) puts it:

    To “flesh out” an idea is to give it substance, as a sculptor adds clay flesh to a skeletal armature. To “flush out” a criminal is to drive him or her out into the open. The latter term is derived from bird-hunting, in which one flushes out a covey of quail. If you are trying to develop something further, use “flesh”; but if you are trying to reveal something hitherto concealed, use “flush.”