wanting to sell out like Mick Jagger

(In contrast to some of my postings on notable found expressions, this one builds hardly at all on my previous work, and I feel uneasily out of my depths here. But I have pressed on, into several areas I’d never before contemplated, trying to make sense of things as best I can.

From Ana Cabrera Reports on MSNBC, on 5/23, about Tina Turner (on the occasion of her death):

She wanted to sell out like Mick Jagger. (call this example TT)
Tina Turner’s contention was not (as you might have thought without further context) that MJ had betrayed himself (or his fans, or his principles) for gain, but that MJ had sold out an arena — that, is, had gotten every single ticket for a concert at a (gigantic) arena sold. Tina Turner expressed a desire to pull off a similar feat.

Betrayal sell out. So: the verbal V + Prt unit sell out in TT is very much not the OED‘s sense 5 for sell out, call it betrayal sell out):
colloquial (originally U.S. Political slang). transitive and intransitive. To betray a person or cause for gain.
The use of this verbal unit without an object is “understood transitively”, interpreted as having a direct object, supplied from context:
The leader sold out (to the enemy)
is interpreted as
The leader sold out X (to the enemy)  / sold X out (to the enemy) (for sanctuary in Canada)
where in this context, X will refer to the group the leader commands. (Here you also see the alternation between V+Prt acting as a verbal unit and an alternative version in which V and Prt are separated by being, in effect, wrapped around a direct object
Most commonly, betrayal sell out is “understood reflexively”, that is, understood as having a reflexive object:
The rock star sold out (to a syndicate) (for a million bucks)
is interpreted as the rock star having sold himself out.
Instead, TT has a variant of the OED‘s sense 4, call it disposal sell out:
transitive. To dispose of the whole of (one’s stock, property, etc.) by sale. Also  intransitive for passive. Also colloquial in passive, to have sold one’s whole stock of some article.
As transitive uses of disposal sell out, we get, first:
The rock star sold out every ticket / sold every ticket out
And then, in a cascade of metonymies:
The rock star sold out the concert / sold the concert out (sold out every ticket for the concert)
The rock star sold out the arena / sold the arena out (sold out the concert held in the arena)
The passive versions of these:
Every ticket was sold out
The concert was sold out
The arena was sold old
The OED then takes intransitive uses of disposal sell out to be some kind of variant of these passives:
Every ticket sold out
The concert sold out
The arena sold old
But there’s a different intransitive — well, object-less — use that the OED doesn’t consider, and it’s the one in TT (which is where we came in), with an understood object:
Mick Jagger sold out ‘sold out the arena / stadium / concert hall / amphitheater / park / …’ (referring to some place where rock concerts are held)
This interpretation certainly, but maybe the others as well: ‘sold out the concert’, ‘sold out every ticket’. That is, the understood object might refer to the tickets (the things actually sold), the concert (the event for which tickets are sold), or the venue (the location of the event).
For the moment, that’s the best I can do in describing the facts very informally. And here I rest, after a very long day.


2 Responses to “wanting to sell out like Mick Jagger”

  1. Danny Boy - London Derriere Says:

    I grew up understanding the expression “a show stopper” from pretty much a literal showbiz context, meaning a hit number that educes so much applause that the onstage action has to pause to allow for the audience appreciation. So, a positive term.

    Later on, I realized that my supervisor on a group project was using the same expression with a negative cast, as an obstacle or difficulty with the potential to halt progress in the overall effort.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The understanding you grew up with is of course the historical original and still the meaning in standard English. The negative understanding (which is new to me) looks like an attempt to interpret the expression literally and not as a conventionalized idiom. So as some type of what’s been called “private meaning”.

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