"let ourselves off the hook"?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Feb 18 23:18:56 UTC 2010

David Yamada, director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk
University {Mass.] Law School, is quoted as saying "My concern is
that the increasingly bizarre nature behind Amy Bishop's personal
story may allow us to let ourselves off the hook in using this as a
wake-up call to take faculty mental health issues more
seriously."  [Boston Globe, Feb. 18, 2010.]

I can't make out the "let ourselves off the hook" here.  My
interpretation of that phrase is that whatever event is being
referred to has enabled us to escape doing something.  E.g., "to
allow someone to escape from a difficult situation or to avoid doing
something that they do not want to do", attributed to the Cambridge
Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed., 2006.

Here Yamada seems to mean the reverse -- this case will *require* us
to pay attention to mental health issues.

He can't be referring to a telephone being "off the hook" as meaning
the line has been engaged, something *is* being done? Seems unlikely
-- Yamada is saying the issue *needs* attention, not *is* being
attended to.  (And anyway, no one at a "New Workplace" institute can
possibly be old enough to remember telephones attached by hooks to walls.)


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list