Frank Stoner On Why Inspin & Outspin Were A Bad Idea Part II


Editor’s Note: This is a follow up to an article originally published on March 28th 2019. To read the original article please click the link below.

After my last article on why inspin & outspin are crap, a number of people contacted me saying, basically, that I had left out the part about “where do we go from here, then?” I recognize that it’s a pretty weak ass position to call something shit and then not supply an alternative. Unfortunately, that’s kind of where I’m at.

The original terms (inspin & outspin) were confusing, badly motivated, and their creators tried to change too much about how we talk. That was really my point.

I don’t really want to tell anyone “how to talk” any more than I want others telling me how to talk. But if we’re in the weeds anyway, I suppose outlining some possible trajectories wouldn’t hurt, so here’s my attempt to redress the mess we’re in with a few options on what we could do about all this.

Option 1. Do nothing.

We kind of already know that language can’t be changed by fiat, so nothing I’m going to say here will cause a tidy revolution resulting in a coherent usage that makes sense to everyone. If anything were “writ in stone,” it would be something like “nothing is writ in stone”—or,  if you’re fussy and don’t like metaphors: “nothing is permanent.”

In this kind of scenario, the best advise I have is to code-switch. Speak to people in ways you think they’ll best understand you. I’ve said this many, many times before, but it basically works like this: if you’re talking to someone who is creeping in on 40 years old or older, you might just use the term “alley oop unity.” If you’re speaking to someone 30 years old or younger, saying “front sav” is probably a better bet.

You don’t speak to your grandma the same way you speak to rollerbladers. You code switch between those two, and, realistically, you probably do some version of “code-switching” for just about everyone you talk to.

So, if you’re speaking to someone who you suspect (or know) uses the inspin/outspin scheme, just go with that. If not, use something you think will make more sense, and ask for patience if it needs explaining. Ideally, if you, like me, agree that inspin & outspin are crap, just try to use those terms less—or banish them outright from your vocabulary. Better still, just don’t hang out with people who use inspin & outspin because they’re old ass bootlicking Daily Bread fanboys and eventually they’ll all just die or go away.

(I’m joking). Mostly. I think.

-Ahem. Anyway.

Option 2. Use the schemes that already exist.

Lots of people are fine with the convention of using “fakie” and then describing the turn/spin with enumerated degrees. “Fakie 270 soul” can only be done one way—at least, one way where the math still checks out—and that’s typically a pretty suitable way to describe something.

The only problem I have this method is that if I’m skating, I’m probably not trying to deal with a lot of math in my free time. I deal with enough math in my work with Hypatia and my side work in carpentry that I don’t really want to spend my rollerblading time doing more math. Still though, if you commit to memory what certain things are, it’s less a matter of doing math and more a matter of memorizing by rote what all the terms “mean.” In that case, I think it’s a perfectly fine method.

Most terms tend to get shorter over time, so in such a case as with enumerating degrees, I’d forecast the use of “2-” becoming short for 270, or something of the sort. I could see something like “dub” taking hold with some people (as a replacement for the “2-” in 270, but, IMHO rollerbladers are less “bro-y” than other action sports people, so “dub” is probably a bit unlikely. “Dub” is also kind of already taken for flips. I could see “2-” taking hold though.

Another alternative within this option is to adapt the terms we already have to a more pervasive use. We already have truespin & alley oop, and these two terms, taken appropriately, do a fine job of describing a spin relative to an object (or carve, if you’re on a ramp). Essentially, truespin replaces “inspin” and alley oop replaces “outspin” and you don’t need to try to limit the terms to fakie-only or forward-only spins. That’s a real advantage, because people also (in addition to shortening terms) will tend to adapt terms to whatever use they want—meaning that limiting terms to fakie-only or forward-only approaches is a pretty tall order. Nobody is going to stick to limitations if those limitations cause problems. That’s partly why we’re in this mess in the first place!

Again though, and not to be too much of a pain in the ass, the problem I forecast with this method is that there are still a lot of people who imagine that “alley oop” names a body position (face first/forward, or, basically, butt first/backward) rather than a spin.

For reasons that mystify me, a lot of people get pissed off with redundant terms like “truepsin alley oop soul” because the “truespin” should already dictate a backwards-facing or butt-first soul grind body position down the rail. If the “alley oop” just means “backwards stance” or “backwards body position,” then the phrase is merely redundant. But if truespin and alley oop mean “spin direction,” then saying “truespin alley oop soul” is an outright contradiction. For my part, I don’t mind the redundancy, but I do mind the contradiction and so some fury is at least understandable.

None of these options area really ideal to me, but none of them are altogether as gross as the whole inspin & outspin thing—but that’s just me. If I had to pick, I’d probably go with the “fakie + enumerated degree + trick,” but what the hell do I know?

Option 3. Invent a whole new system.


This option is very interesting, but it’s nevertheless fraught with many of the same problems that plagued inspin & outspin. Invented language rarely takes hold if it’s pressed on people—especially if the terms are badly motivated. Invented language that arises organically commonly takes hold—but only when the novel terms or schemes are well-motivated. 

I’ve heard several people pushing for “clockwise” and “anti-clockwise” (“anti-clockwise” might be better described by Americans as “counter-clockwise”—but that’s another story). I can see these terms taking hold, but, as ever, you still need to know several facts about the skater or the trick for this method to work. “Anti-clock mizou” makes sense if you know I spin to the left and grind left-footed. That’d be what we now call a “true mizou.” However, if I do that trick right-footed, then “anti-clock mizou” would mean what we now call an “alley oop mizou.”

If you really wanted to get crazy (and precise) with a system like this, you’d have to combine the clock/anti-clock thing with truespin & alley oop, which would eliminate a lot of confusion, but would cause a lot more talking. Hell, you might even have to throw left foot & right foot in there and while we’re at it, why not pile on natural and switch and body position too!

Now THAT would be a shit show!

“Switch truespin clockwise right foot butt-first mizou”?

Jesus Christ. No thank you. I’d rather spend my time skating than gurgling mouthfuls like that.

People rarely even use the whole term “truespin” anymore—favoring instead the shortened form “true mizou”—or even “tru miz” for Millennials. “Switch true clock right butt mizou” is never going to take hold.

Just never.

So, while I feel pretty confident about a new scheme being possible, I find it unlikely. Personally, I think a brand new scheme would have to be really revolutionary, and probably make a decision about either embracing naturals (natural foot, natural spin, etc. like we do now) or embracing an objective scheme like left foot/right foot & clock/anti-clock. That’d be a tall order, but I could see it if enough are fed up with the older systems and schemes. It would really come down to the collective values of the blading community.

For my money, getting people to think about these things is the important thing. Deciding on what we should all say is, in a way, secondary.

We know language can’t be changed by fiat, and we’d be naïve to think that me blabbering on about this to my fellow blade nerds is going to fix it. So here’s my advice, if you, like me, don’t like inspin & outspin, don’t use them. Describe those tricks however you want and the entropy of the universe (and the principles of linguistics) will sort it out.

Personally, I think the whole “clock/anti-clock” thing is pretty charming, but I’m old and fat and I don’t spin much these days.

Time will tell.

Thanks so much for reading, and thanks again to Daniel and Travis for hosting this mess here on Blader Union. -fs