"In this sentence - Data recently compiled by the
Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston
offers a startling look at just how out of whack executive compensation
has become (January 11, 2007, New York Times) - what does 'out of whack'
"Out of whack" is an American expression. To say
"something is out of whack" is to mean it is out of order, out of line,
out of tune, out of the ordinary, disproportionate, inappropriate and in
short not right.
To say that executive compensation (money paid to top officials of
companies) is "out of whack", is to say those executives are paid too much
more than ordinary workers are paid.
If the executives were paid too much less than the going rate, that
could also be described as "out of whack". But that is contrary to the
tone of the sentence in question.
A Google search confirms this. That New York Times article (titled
Working Harder for the Man) is an op-ed written by Bob Herbert, who said
"Data recently compiled by the Center for Labor Market Studies at
Northeastern University in Boston offers a startling look at just how out
of whack executive compensation has become…. According to the center's
director, Andrew Sum, the top five Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns,
Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley) were
expected to award an estimated $36 billion to $44 billion worth of bonuses
to their 173,000 employees, an average of between $208,000 and $254,000,
'with the bulk of the gains accruing to the top 1,000 or so highest-paid
"Now consider what's been happening to the bulk of the
American population, the ordinary men and women who have to work for a
living somewhere below the stratosphere of the top corporate executives.
Between 2000 and 2006, labor productivity in the non-farm sector of the
economy rose by an impressive 18 percent. But workers were not paid for
that impressive effort. During that period, according to Mr. Sum, the
inflation-adjusted weekly wages of workers increased by just 1
"That's $3.20 a week."
Don't read too much into it, my readers, or you would all want to go to
American and become one of those big bosses at one of those big companies.
Well, my advice is: Don't go. The more of you go, the more of you will
end up among the "$3.20 a week" group. Whacky to say, I know. But you have
to realize the "$3.20 a week" masses are the ones who make that kind of
big pay days possible for the big bosses in the first place.
Kidding aside, I think you can at least master "out of whack" the
American English expression. That may not be much compensation, I mean
consolation, to speak of, but who knows? It might come in handy, you know,
in case you did go to America and have your own whack at the American
In case, that is, you didn't think you could realize your
whatchamacallit right here.