Go Off

nmuntz

New Member
Spanish & English
Hi,

I'm a native spanish speaker and i've never quite understood why in the US they say "go off" refering to objects or things that actually went "on".

For example: The alarm went off.

To me, off has always meant that it is not active.

Other examples: lightning storm went off.

Thank you very much in advance for the clarification.
This mystery has been bothering me for quite a while :)
 
  • nmuntz

    New Member
    Spanish & English
    That contradicts with definition 5 though...
    "(of an electrical appliance or power supply) not functioning or so as to cease to function."
     

    Colloq.

    Member
    English
    It's an expression that that I have also questioned. I think it is derived from an animal being let loose in the sense that "it went off of the chain", which means something has become wild or taken a greatly exaggerated turn.

    All I said was hello, and she went off on me! She acted unexpectedly and innappropriately.
    The fire alarm went off while I was baking. The alarm activated suddenly, and in a raucous manner.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    That contradicts with definition 5 though...
    "(of an electrical appliance or power supply) not functioning or so as to cease to function."
    There are quite a few things in English that appear to be self-contradictory. Off is used in situations where on is never used and in a different meaning than "definition 5". This is why there is more than one definition :D
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I just looked up the word in the OED, where there are several pages of acceptances listed. Here is the first:
    1. a. Expressing motion or direction from a place: To a distance, away, quite away; as in go, run, drive off.

    "To go off" (in the context you've given) is really a phrasal verb with its own meaning. There is no true "explanation" for this sort of thing.
     
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