"let ourselves off the hook"?

Lisa Galvin lisagal23 at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 18 23:40:33 UTC 2010

After several minutes of reading and re-reading this sentence (I admit it's hard to parse), I have come to the conclusion that the answer may lie in his referral to the personal story of Amy Bishop. He is concerned that people will say she was an anomaly--i.e., it was her fault for being "bizarre", rather than admit that the university/tenure system is broken.

Lisa Galvin                                                 


> Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 18:18:56 -0500
> From: Berson at ATT.NET
> Subject: "let ourselves off the hook"?
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: "let ourselves off the hook"?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.)
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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