Turning lemons into lemonade

When Daihatsu produced the Lemon Edition of its Cuore, coloured lemon-yellow and with smart accessories, it apparently (anscheinend?) wasn’t aware that in U.S. English, a lemon is a dud – most often a car that you buy new but that develops so many problems that the law will allow you to change it for another.

There are lemon laws that define exactly how many defects a car has to have to satisfy this requirement.

Now, via Ernie the Attorney, a new U.S. legal weblog, Out-Of-The-Box Lawyering, claims to teach lawyers how to solve various everyday problems, and ‘turn lemons into lemonade’.

bq. What’s this weblog – blog – blawg – all about? It’s about creativity – how lawyers have come up with unusual solutions in their practices. And, it’s about how lawyers can come up with more. It will also be about general principles of creativity – as used in business, in science, in anything – and how those principles can be and have been applied in the practice of law.I’m afraid I keep forgetting what ‘out-of-the-box’ means, so here is a definition, from the NetLingo Dictionary:

bq. Ideas that do not conform to conventional industry methods or practices. It is a phrase used in business to imply the need to think more creatively or to “develop a new angle.” For example, “C’mon people, we keep marketing this product in the same way with no real results; we’ve got to get out-of-the-box on this one.”

Back to lemon laws: there’s a site called Lemon Law America that gives the lemon laws of all fifty states. Or from the National Lemon Law Center, as it calls itself:

bq. State Lemon Laws and Federal Warranty Law protect consumers from being stuck with Lemon Cars, Lemon Trucks, Lemon SUV’s and Lemon Computers and other Consumer Products. Research your your State’s Lemon Law or get a Lemon Law Consultation from experienced consumer protection attorneys in your State. If your car or computer is a lemon, you may be entitled to your money back, a replacement or a cash settlement. So you have nothing to lose, except that Lemon! The National Lemon Law Center gives consumers access to their state’s lemon law and provides links to consumer protection attorneys.

The OED says the term is U.S. and gives the first example in 1909. It almost sounds as if the term came from fruit machines, but it doesn’t explicitly say so.

2 thoughts on “Turning lemons into lemonade

  1. In American English, “out of the box” is not the same as “outside the box.” “Developing a new angle”, thinking creatively, is the definition of “thinking outside the box” (the box, here, being the boxes on forms which must be filled out just so, according to rule).

    “Out of the box” refers to a new appliance or system– if it works out of the box, it doesn’t need special installation, callibration, or configuration procedures– it just functions the way it’s supposed to when it’s turned on. The box here, is the shipping container the appliance came in.

    Thanks for the fascinating blog.

  2. Thanks very much.

    I see your point about ‘out of the box’ and ‘outside the box’. I remember a discussion about this on a translators’ mailing list when someone had to translate it into German. However, it appears that the two terms are used as synonyms, even if perhaps they haven’t always been – here are some more examples:
    I suppose people first talk about ‘outside the box’ and then they talk about being in a box and getting out of a/the box. So finally ‘out of the box’ has two meanings, I think.

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