Lauren Krueger & Matthew David Brozik

Kids in water.

In Definally on July 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

Ronnie R. of Chicago asks, “What do you yell to get a child out of water? ‘Come in’ (like, in towards shore) or ‘come out’ (like, out of the water)? Same with the reverse: Is going out into the water considered going out or going in?”

The question, of course, presumes that the child in question (1) is in the ocean, and (2) will listen to you if you tell him or her what to do. Neither of these is a reliable presumption, of course.

Assuming that the child is in fact in the ocean, then it seems that “Come in!” is not the appropriate directive—notwithstanding that we do indeed speak of things (boats, boots, tidal waves) coming in toward the shore—because a child could just as easily get out of the ocean at the opposite shore, which would hardly be coming in. Certainly, it would entail going out considerably before coming in again, anyway. So the right thing to yell at a child who has been in the ocean too long and/or is in danger of being hit by a boat or an incoming tidal wave is: “Come out!”

But what if the child is in a pool? The answer depends whether the pool is indoors or outdoors, of course (but not whether it is in-ground or not). If the child is in a pool outside, and you want her simply to exit the pool (and, say, join the rest of the party for barbecue lunch), then you would still be correct to yell, “Come out!” If you want her to exit the pool and come into an enclosed structure—from where you are calling her—you do not need to yell, “Get out and come in!” Rather, “Come in!” will suffice, inasmuch as she necessarily has to get out of the pool to come into the house, cabana, or lean-to.

The converse (reverse?) is mostly also true: You would tell a child to “go in(to)” the ocean or a pool (wherever situated), although you would tell that child to “go out” (further) into the ocean (for whatever reason; this is not a parenting blog).


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