hung it off the back of her head

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mycityofsky, May 5, 2014.

  1. mycityofsky Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Based on the American sitcom Friends S04E23: Transcription of "The One with Ross's Wedding" as Transcribed by Eric Aasen.

    Monica: Emily has probably been planning it since she was five! Ever since the first time she took a pillowcase and hung it off the back of her head.

    What's the meaning of the word "off" here? I've looked up the dictionary for a long time, but didn't find a proper definition. It seems most definitions tend to be "away from something". But I guess Monica wanted to convey that "she used the pillowcase as a scarf, wore it around her head". But I didn't find such a definition. So what's the exact meaning of "off" here?

    Thanks in advance, my friends. :)
     
  2. waltern Senior Member

    English - USA
  3. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    the youngster used the pillowcase to give the effect of a bride's veil, I imagine, hanging down her back from the crown of her head. Veils have to be fixed on somehow, with pins or something, and then the pillowcase / veil drapes from that fixing.
     
  4. mycityofsky Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Thank you, waltern. That picture is very helpful. But I still cannot understand why Monica used the word "off" instead of "on". "off" gave me an impression that the pillowcase is away from the back of the head, not attached to it. In other words, I feel that "hung it on the back of the head" is better to me. :)
     
  5. mycityofsky Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Thank you, suzi br, I am just curious that if "hung it on the back of the head" is right to describe the same picture?
     
  6. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    "Off" emphasizes that the "veil" hangs down and away from her head. "On" would emphasize that it was attached to her head.
    If you are hanging on a cliff, you may be fairly safe. If you are hanging off a cliff, you are about to fall.
     
  7. mycityofsky Senior Member

    Mandarin
    @Myridon, thank you! Excellent explanation! But I wonder what "hang on a cliff" is like. Does it both include the scenario of "hang off a cliff" and other scenarios, such as "stand on the edge of a cliff"?
     
  8. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    Hanging certainly has nothing to do with standing. Notice that I'm talking about emphasis and implication rather than just meaning. Yes, you can't hang off a cliff without hanging on the cliff as well, but are you hanging on with both hands and both feet or are you hanging on with one finger in a tiny crack that is crumbling away?
     
  9. mycityofsky Senior Member

    Mandarin
    @Myridon. Can I just understand, "hang off a cliff" and "hang on a cliff" in fact can describe the same picture in a way? Only they have different emphasis and implications. "hang off a cliff" is more dangerous for a man, because it has more of a tendency to fall off than "hang on a cliff".
     
  10. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Stoke on Trent
    England and English
    Yes, you are getting the nuance now.

    In your OP you can have a veil on your head, or you can have a veil hanging off your head. Both describe the same image, but the focus is differnt as Myridion explains in #6.

    A veil hanging on your head would not work very well, because the phrase hanging on seems to require an animate object.

    The use of hanging off is to suggest the drape of the veil, it is ON at its fixed point, but OFF the neck and shoulders.
     
  11. mycityofsky Senior Member

    Mandarin
    Thank you, suzi br. I got it. :)
     

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