"slough off"

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James Bates

Banned
Urdu
Could somebody tell me the meaning of "slough off" in the following?

"For generations, young men had arrived at Oxford expecting to slough off in Latin and Greek while sneaking doses of vernacular literature. "
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    To be lazy, indolent, avoid work, etc. (which is what I'm doing now on the computer to avoid power-washing my driveway, but I digress.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I hadn't come across that use of "slough off" either, picka (though I do pronounce slough = shed skin etc as 'sluff'...;)).
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I don't understand the sentence. Does it mean they expected to slough off their Latin – forget the Latin they had learned in school? The OED has no sense of 'slough off' that makes very much sense here, with 'in'. sdgraham suggests it's equivalent to 'slack off in Latin'; that makes perfect sense, but it's not a meaning I know.
     

    preppie

    Senior Member
    American English (Mostly MidAtlantic)
    I had two thoughts: The writer really meant "shrug off" or he intended, like a snake, the students would shed their responsibilities.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    This is intriguing! I found another example of slough off with sdg's meaning here, on an American site dealing with home schooling:
    Generally speaking, children don’t learn all they should in the public school system. Not necessarily because they don’t want to but often because they are allowed to do whatever they want while in the classroom. They are allowed to slough off in class, skip homework assignments, cut classes, take unexcused absences, and generally behave in a boorish manner without being corrected or disciplined.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, here's a turn-up for the books!

    This is what I found in Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (my highlighting):
    sluff v. [20C] (US) to avoid or shirk one's responsibilities or work, [S(tandard) E(nglish) slough off]
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I am positive that I have heard (in American English) "sloughing off" in precisely the context given in the first post: avoiding schoolwork in favor of something else. I don't recall seeing it written, but my first guess would have been "sluffing", which - know that I look at it - is clearly wrong.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    It's an Americanism. The only cite for "He would slough off" from a .uk site is this:

    Each year with the dry season, he would slough off the habits of civilisation and go to war [...] He crossed burning savannahs and ...
    eric.exeter.ac.uk/exeter/bitstream/10036/41273/2/ChatwinJ.pdf
    Meaning: discard.

    Removing the .uk limitation, Google shows 21 results. Only one of these has the same sense as that in the first post:

    A Georgia Boy in China: No Problem

    Jun 15, 2006 ... I guess he wasn't counting on me working today so he decided he would slough off. If I had known this I WOULD HAVE taken the day off. ...
    xiemao.blogspot.com/2006/06/no-problem.html - Cached
    In my experience of AE, it is usually an intransitive phrasal verb.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    What BE equivalent would you be most comfortable with, retaining that US meaning of slough off?
    "Switch off" would not require any other changes to the sentence in post #1.
    "Wing it" also comes to mind, but I am hesitating between "wing it in Latin and Greek" and "wing it through Latin and Greek".
    "Bluff their way through Latin and Greek" also seems to convey the idea.
     
    Last edited:

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    I always thought it was pronounced like 'bough' and meant to discard, like a snake's skin!
    There are two different pronunciations for two different meanings of the word, Pickarooney.
    slough (pronounced sluff)= to shed skin, etc (as posters have said);
    slough (to rhyme with bough) = a muddy bog, as in "The Slough of Despond" in The Pilgrim's Progress.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    There are two different pronunciations for two different meanings of the word, Pickarooney.
    slough (pronounced sluff)= to shed skin, etc (as posters have said);
    slough (to rhyme with bough) = a muddy bog, as in "The Slough of Despond" in The Pilgrim's Progress.
    In AE there are three pronunciations. The "muddy bog" version can rhyme either with "bough" or with "through".
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    In AE there are three pronunciations. The "muddy bog" version can rhyme either with "bough" or with "through".
    The famous lack of pronunciation rules in English!

    The way I interpret the original context, they do turn up for Latin or Greek classes, but laze about rather than studying. They're there physically, but not mentally.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The way I interpret the original context, they do turn up for Latin or Greek classes, but laze about rather than studying. They're there physically, but not mentally.
    Yes - skive would work for me for that meaning (but not skive off).
     
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