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Two van dwellers in Venice Beach, Calif., insisted they were living in the back of their pickup truck by choice. They proudly showed off the camper shell they had outfitted for less than $20.
Source: Brenoff, Ann. 7 Myths About Homeless People Debunked.

Is this usage of "outfit" correct? I think this author wanted to say, "They proudly showed off the camper shell that they had added to their truck for less than 20 dollars."

Even if you consider this "had" to be a verb like "had something done", still it doesn't sound right because outfit is used like the following examples.

outfit (verb): to provide (someone or something) with equipment or clothes especially for a special purpose.

The company outfitted us with food and supplies.

Often used as (be) outfitted. The car was outfitted [=equipped] with a new stereo system.

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outfit)

  • To me, it's rather straightforward. (The meaning of outfit given by that dictionary is also fine.) What did they show off? They showed off "the camper shell (that) they had outfitted for less than $20". In other words, They had outfitted the camper shell (to the their pickup truck), and they had spent less than $20 on that. – Damkerng T. Jul 1 '14 at 9:59
  • From m-w: 1:to furnish with an outfit and 2c : physical, mental, or moral endowments or resources. Does that make any more sense, now? – jimsug Jul 1 '14 at 11:24
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    you cannot use it like add ... – user8153 Jul 1 '14 at 11:39
  • There's no way they added a shell for $20, and in that case the sentence would be that they "outfitted the truck" with a shell. That's not what the article says. It says they "outfitted the shell" but in a way that is not specified in the article - likely that they fixed up the interior to make it livable. – mc01 Jul 2 '14 at 15:41
  • I think this user needs more help with this question. I think the issue is thinking of "outfit" as a transitive verb: "to outfit some-thing with some-upgrades. So, to outfit "a truck" with "a camper shell". Or, to outfit "a camper shell" with "stuff". The OP thinks this verb, formed with "had outfitted" in the subordinate clause, can undergo some type of valency reduction in which the subject ("the truck") can be dropped while still retaining the object ("the camper"). Is this possible? I think this is the central issue for the OP. – CoolHandLouis Jul 4 '14 at 23:40
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As stated above, "to outfit" something means to add something for a particular purpose. So yes, the article's usage is correct.

There seems to be confusion about what exactly was "outfitted."

The article says:

They proudly showed off "the camper shell they had outfitted."

From this it's clear the shell, not the truck, was the recipient of the outfitting.

This sentence therefore likely does not mean that the camper shell itself was only $20 (that's very cheap). For that interpretation the sentence would have to be:

"They proudly showed off the truck they had outfitted with a camper shell for less than $20."

By stating that they had "outfitted the camper shell," it is likely that they added equipment that isn't explicitly mentioned in the article. For example, maybe they "outfitted it" with a mattress, some curtains, perhaps a small eating area, etc. We don't know specifically how it was outfitted because the author doesn't offer those details - we only know it cost < $20.

  • +1 this explains what I said, but with more detail. – CoolHandLouis Jul 4 '14 at 23:31
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It is correct. Consider the following, which substitutes the definition for the word:

They proudly showed off the camper shell they had outfitted for less than $20.

They proudly showed off the camper shell they had provided with equipment for less than $20.

  • Please let us know if you have any questions about this answer. – CoolHandLouis Jul 1 '14 at 0:23
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    No, that's not what the writer means. The author is saying that they outfitted the truck with a camper shell. So your version is not correct. – user8153 Jul 1 '14 at 5:52
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    @user8153 Reviewing the article, it's actually not clear whether they outfitted the truck (with the camper shell) or the shell itself (presumably with things to make it more comfortable, as they're living under it). I lean towards your interpretation though, since there's no other context given. – Esoteric Screen Name Jul 1 '14 at 7:29
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    @user8153 A Google search shows that camper shells can be self-enclosed, all the way around the bed of a pick up truck. In fact I don't see why a homeless person would spend money on one that didn't. Esoteric's interpretations are correct, although I'm leaning towards the second one since (1) a camper shell probably cannot be bought for $20 and (2) I think it is more likely to 'show off' the inside of a camper shell (i.e., furnishings), rather than the outside, which is not very interesting. – Merk Jul 2 '14 at 8:10

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