I'll sign off now (on the phone)


Senior Member

I watched the movie Kinsey yesterday. The action takes place in the forties in the US, in Indiana. At one point, Dr. Kinsey is on the phone with his wife, and he says, "I'll sign off now." I was very surprised. I thought the concept of signing off didn't exist before the email age.

So, have you encountered sign off in phone conversations of the decades past?

  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I haven't personally encountered 'sign off now' at all except in a letter written in the early 40's to my father by his aunt who had emigrated to New York.
    I don't know what the concept of signing off means. It's a way of ending a communication rather like I must close now which is what my father's parents used when writing to him, and I have often seen used, or rather saw used years ago.
    So I'd have said they are both old fashioned, out dated expressions.
    We were brought up not to use 'must close now': it was regarded as poor style.




    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi susanna

    "Sign off" definitely precedes the internet era:). Here's part of the OED's entry for "sign", together with some of the earlier citations:
    (a) With off. gen., to record that one is bringing something to an end, to stop doing something; spec. (i) Broadcasting, to cease broadcasting, to announce the end of a broadcast; (ii) to fall silent, to withdraw one's attention; (iii) to record leaving one's work, to stop work; (iv) Bridge, to indicate by a conventional bid that one is ending the bidding.

    1838 R. W. Emerson Addr. Divinity Coll., Cambridge, Mass. 24 In the country,— neighbourhoods, half parishes are signing off,—to use the local term.
    1923 Sci. Amer. Nov. 310/3 The local broadcasting stations have ‘signed off’ for the night.
    1929 P. G. Wodehouse Mr. Mulliner Speaking vi. 206 If you're trying to propose to me, sign off. There is nothing doing.
    I don't think I'd use "sign off" to end a phone call myself. But I expect its use in the context of the film was based on the broadcasting use:).


    Senior Member
    Thank you so much Hermione and Loob! Very interesting what you both say: about the letters and broadcasting.
    < Previous | Next >