"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
Friday, 2 October 2009
Off the cuff
Off the cuff means not prepared in advance; impromptu; or extemporaneous. It can also mean informal or casual.
"His off the cuff remarks got him into trouble." One site quotes the origins of this phrase as being 'back in olden times' when people who borrowed money had the debt written down on the lenders cuff in the absence of a formal contract. That seems unlikely to me, even in days when washing one's linen was not carried out quite so punctiliously as it is nowadays. (I later discovered that the phrase 'on the cuff' is slang for 'on credit' but I still have doubts about its orogins.)
I should have thought a far more likely origin for off the cff was the idea of a person using his cuff on which to make some basic notes for a speech. He would then refer to these notes during the speech which, rather than being read out in a prepared manner, simply covered the main points off the cuff. The term seems to have entered the English language around the 1940s.
My daughter Helen commented in November 2008 in her Blog that she was now keeping a notebook of new words that she came across during her reading. "This week I bought a lovely little leather bound book to write new words in as I read them . I've added a few from "1984", but my favourite has to be persiflage (from the French persifler) which means banter." I later discovered that my older daughter, Bryony, also kept a similar notebook.
This inspired me to create a Word blog. This will include both new words, favourite words and the origins of phrases that we commonly use. A definition and some comment, perhaps even a relevant quotation, will acompany the word or phrase.
“I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” - Winnie the Pooh
I'm a blogger - nowadays that seems to be my main occupation and Rambles from My Chair is my main blog. I’m a retired local government executive - now studying how to survive a neurological disorder that gives me various problems but, hopefully, a whole new outlook on life and an increased sense of humour and perspective. I enjoy all manner of communication apart from the telephone and am constantly e-mailing, texting, writing postcards and letters and commenting on other people's blogs.
Scriptor Senex is Latin for Old Writer and my real name is John but I've almost forgotten that nowadays...
“He’s not so old. He’s just the age that he is, that’s all.” (Gerald Hammond)