dialect in novels

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 1 12:48:47 UTC 2001

At 5:42 PM -0500 3/1/01, Tony Glaser wrote:
>On a different subject - where did "sign off" come from? Instead of
>waiting for the President or whoever to sign a bill or order, we now
>wait for him to "sign off on" something. What's wrong with him just
>signing an order?

The actions aren't quite the same.  As I understand it, signing off
on something means explicitly checking the bill (or whatever) and
declining to object to its implementation.  It's quite different from
signing a bill or order, more like tacitly okaying it.  And others
can do this as well--an assistant secretary, or newspaper editor, can
sign off on a regulation or article proposed by his or her
underlings.   In these cases (especially that of the newspaper
article), there's no signing of anything, just declining to interdict.

>(are there other examples where "off on" occurs,
>other then "he gets off on annoying people" etc.?)
In neither of these cases is "off on" really a constituent, though.
It's more [sign off] [on X], [get off] [on Y].  Another case in which
this sequence (but not constituent) occurs is "go off on a tangent".
Or, for that matter, "He went off on me again", in a different sense.
Nothing terribly significant going on here, I don't think.


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