in the field

[in thuh feeld]

What does in the field mean?

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In the field is an idiom with several, related meanings. When someone's in the field, they're "in direct contact with a source of data or subject of interest," as in doing work outside an office or laboratory. It can also mean "in actual use," like a product release after R&D, or it can have the more literal sense of "within a given profession or area of expertise." It's also slang for working hard or enduring the challenges of real life.

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Examples of in the field

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Examples of in the field
Meanwhile dude who was making realistic pokemon renders now works for Detective Pikachu.... those teachers are either detached from reality or have no idea how to actually get a job in the field
@Kitsubane, March 2019
... as a Spanish-speaker with a Latino nickname, O’Rourke’s appeal to that demographic group could be golden in the early state of Nevada, and the near-early state of California, particularly if the only Latino candidate in the field, Julian Castro, fails to get his long-shot campaign off the ground.
Ed Kilgore, New York, March 2019
Aussizz Group

Where does in the field come from?

Houston Chronicle

In the 1400s, in the field meant “on the field of battle,” referring to soldiers engaged in combat. By the late the 1700s, in the field became a metaphor for all manner of work being done outside of a laboratory, classroom, or office.

When you’re in the field, your doing hands-on work and getting practical, real-world information or experience. Like a product being directly tested by consumers instead of by corporate R&D, or an anthropologist living with a tribe versus reading texts in a library.

The field here, can also refer to an area of study, as in the field of education or biology. Charles Darwin, for instance, wrote in an 1846 letter: “I am delighted that you are in the Field, geologising or palaeontologising.”

New York-based rapper Pardison Fontaine brought more mainstream attention to the phrase in his 2017 song “In the Field,” where he raps: “I’m in the field right now / I had to bust a dougie, shit was gettin’ real right now / If you broke, I know how you feel right now.” Fontaine is using in the field in a more colloquial sense for “actively working” or “hustling.”

(And oh, busting a dougie, apparently, is “making moves.”)

Who uses in the field?

In the field sees wide use in professional and academic contexts, especially in the sciences and human services. The phrase can be used to contrast more abstract, theoretical work with work that’s more tangible, action-oriented, and participatory.  The implied counterweight to being in the field is being in the office or lab.

In politics, in the field can specifically refer to candidates competing for office.

Of course, one can still literally be in the field, as a lamb gamboling in a grassy knoll.

 

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