To Riff Off

Discussion dans 'English Only' démarrée par JoAdVa, 27 mai 2008.

  1. JoAdVa New Member

    Bogota, Colombia meanwhile
    Bogotá, Colombia. Spanish
    Hello everybody

    I am reading an article from Men's Health Magazine for the month of June and, as I was reading, I found a verb which meaning I couldn't find. The verb is "to riff off" in the following sentence:

    'In short, is turmeric really a wonder spice - one that, to riff off Kurmakose, should be “a part of us”?'

    May somebody help me to understand this in other words?

    I 'preshyate it!
  2. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    It means to borrow a line of thought from someone else and use it in one's own creation.

    "... one that, as Kurmakose said, should be 'a part of us'?"
  3. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    I haven't come across the expression, JoAdVa, but it looks in that context very much like a hip way of saying "to paraphrase", to borrow from, to quote without permission.

    I'll see if I can find anything.
  4. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    OK, looks like it's a jazz term, literally meaning one musician plays a riff (a piece of improvisation) and someone picks it up and uses it, elaborates it. "Borrow from" is therefore the answer you're looking for, assuming the quote is word for word; if it's an approximate quote, then what the author has done is "paraphrase".
  5. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    Riff off may be American English but I have never come across it before. I do know to rip off and it's a rip-off which are also American but well known in England. Rip off mean to steal. The writer may have been confused by the word riff-raff meaning undesirable or criminal people, possibly liable to rip things off.
    (Later), perhaps its a portemanteau coining merging the jazz term riff, mentioned above, with the similar-sounding to rip off, for whch I would say to pinch in traditional British slang.
    Dernière édition: 27 mai 2008
  6. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    No, "riff off" is actually fairly common in American English. I don't think the author was confusing two things. "To riff off" of something, as others have said, is to use an idea as a basis for a new variation. I believe, as El escoces said, that it originates from jazz.
  7. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    No, it's riff off. El esoces has it right. It comes from the musical term, originally and principally jazz, meaning to take a melody or line (riff) from a musician with whom you are playing and to copy it then improvise on it—to "to take it and run with it" to use a sporting analogy. It does not imply stealing ideas, but borrowing them and elaborating on them.

    The playing of a musical line or theme is being used as a metaphor for the discussion of ideas. I've been coming across this usage for a while now, particularly in the "blogosphere" (network of web-logs) where one blogger takes a post of another and runs with it. It is to a great extent how the blogosphere works.
  8. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Well, that's a new one for the collection.:)
  9. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    I guess I ain't hep no more. Arrius
  10. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    Well it took a while but I think I have a few clues. The red herring was the name of the person quoted. The original Men's Health article refers to Kuriakose, not Kumakose.

    At first I believed this to be Kuriakose Elias Chavara, a 19th century holy man in Kerala, India, who was beatified by the Pope as recently as the 1990s. Turmeric, in that part of India, was said to have special healing powers, including an ability, in paste form, to cure leprosy.

    But....turns out Kuriakose is simply a 62-year-old farm worker to whom the journalist spoke in India, and who, having used turmeric in cooking all his life (and been forced to gargle with it, for colds, by his grandmother), tells the journalist, "Turmeric is in me, it's part of me".

    Mystery solved. The author is simply "borrowing a phrase". This is the full article.

    Seems turmeric is potentially a cure for prostate cancer.

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