"off the hook," "off the hinges" (= outstanding, great)

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Thu Jun 29 00:32:31 UTC 2006

    On the "Judge Judy" TV program today, a young (11 years old?) African-American girl and her mother were very pleased with the judge's ruling.  First the mother expressed her great pleasure, and then the girl added "Judge Judy is off the hook."

    I had never heard this expression in the meaning "great, outstanding," but a Google search shows it is very much in use and is synonymous with "off the hinges." Slangsite.com gives an example: "Yo, that concert was off the hinges!"

    Now, why would something "off the hinges" be outstanding/great?  To me it sounds broken and in need of repair. As for "off the hook," does that derive from the phone ringing off the hook when something sensational happens?

Gerald Cohen

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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