Don't flirt with your ex-wife, Steve. It's not on.

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susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

What does "It's not on" mean here, when Steve's wife tells him,
"Don't flirt with your ex-wife, Steve. It's not on"?
(David Nicholls, The Understudy)

Is it "It's not cool"? Or "It's not appropriate"? Or what? Or maybe that she doesn't want to go for it? Because he does say next,
"So I'm wasting my time?"
"Absolutely.[...]"

Thanks!
 
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Note that the previous poster is from the UK. "Not on" is a very common phrase in BE. An AE speaker would probably not understand it. (That may not be true of WRF members, but we're not typical in that regard.)
     

    aztlaniano

    Senior Member
    English (Aztlán, US sector)
    Note that the previous poster is from the UK. "Not on" is a very common phrase in BE. An AE speaker would probably not understand it. (That may not be true of WRF members, but we're not typical in that regard.)
    True. The book's author and setting are British. I can't remember ever hearing an American use "it's not on" in that way.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you sound shift, Egmont, and aztlaniano. sound shift: Thank you for helping me pick a meaning :). Egmont and azlaniano: Yes, I didn't think I encountered "It's not on" used like that in AmE, either. . . . Thank you for confirming that it's strictly a British expression.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    "It's not on" implies "It's morally indefensible". The speaker disapproves.
    Morally indefensible is a bit OTT (over the top). It just means it is not a good idea.

    On the other hand without any real context it is very difficult to determine what is really going on.

    GF..
     

    herma jesty

    Member
    English-England
    Morally indefensible is a bit OTT (over the top). It just means it is not a good idea.
    I think it's somewhere in between the two. "That's not on" would be too weak to use for something like stealing a car. But it's something worse than just a bad idea, I think it means something a bit immoral, or not socially acceptable. Sometimes something that's a bit cheeky.

    eg. Trying to carry 5 glasses at once is a bad idea, but you wouldn't say "It's not on."
    If you're flirting with someone else's girlfriend, or taking a pile of food from an all-you-can-eat buffet and hiding it in your bag to save for later, someone might say "You can't do that. It's just not on."
     
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