You are watching: Off-the-wall idiom
Has anyone an idea about the beginning of this expression?
According come the Historical dictionary of American Slang off the wall is one expression which may come native sports:
The phrase off the wall, meaning wild, crazy, or eccentric is first unambiguously attested come in F.L. Brown’s 1959 Trumbull Park:
We all said thanks in our very own off-the-wall ways.
Not that off-the-wall holyroller kind of clapping.
There is an previously use from 1953 in the title of a blues tune by Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs. But as this song is important with no lyrics, the feeling of the location is ambiguous. It may be plan in the sense of odd, or it may literally average something taken down from a wall.
The originating metaphor is unknown, but it likely refers to part sport, a racquet-sport favor squash, or probably baseball, where a ball might literally be played turn off the wall, regularly with wild and unpredictable bounces.
(Source: Historical dictionary of American Slang)
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answered Feb 8 "15 in ~ 13:02
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To expand on mine comment: A rubber room or padded cabinet is indicative the a place where one who could be vulnerable to damaged himself might be secluded. This would include those of altered mental states, including those who would be taken into consideration "crazy". Thus, the setting being padded means that one attempting to damage oneself would bounce harmlessly off the wall rather of collide with an unyielding surface.
This setting would no be thought about necessary because that the basic populace.
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reply Feb 8 "15 at 16:22
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I relate it come the French expression: "faire tapisserie"= wallflower. Human being are calculation invisible or not exciting when being a wallflower (gender discrimination mostly). Therefore, if you room off the wall, you space visible and also become interesting. Crazy in plenty of ways means original, beyond the dull, mass, sheep-like, etc.
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reply Feb 8 "16 at 5:39
Josiane van MelleJosiane van Melle
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J.E. Lighter, Random residence Historical dictionary of American Slang (1997) offers as a first occurrence of "off the wall" in a slang feeling this exchange native a 1937 fear film, cited (with interpolated commentary) in Michael Starks, Cocaine Fiends and also Reefer Madness (1982):
After the normal prologue top top the hazards of marijuana, we discover Lamont High institution students Jimmy and Sally drink in a local bar ("Beer 5¢"). "Oh, Jimmy—you don"t love me. I"m off the wall." Evidently, Sally is trying come tell united state that she is drunk.
"I understand Sally, however I don"t mind." "In the old days parental knew what their kids were act evenings." "If my mother and dad had concerned places choose this, ns wouldn"t be right here now." The rest of the gang, reportedly consisting of Lucille Ball, is drinking, necking, and fighting, while being looked end by obvious older pusher types.
Lighter analyzes this excerpt together follows:
The feeling of the bracketed 1937 quot
The opened of Lighter"s entry reads favor this:
off the wall adj. strange or eccentric; crazy; (broadly) obnoxious, offensive, pointless, etc. Also as adv.
And Lighter"s first two attested citations room as follows:
Frank Brown, Trumbull Park (1959) actually has three instances the "off the wall," every time as a hyphenated adjective phrase. First:
"You can"t win the syndicate."
Seemed choose Terry had to store coming up v those off-the-wall remarks. I was obtaining sick the this cat:
"What goddamned syndicate?"
I don"t know whose church radio regime it was the was swinging therefore nice the January Sunday morning. Ns mean, organs and choirs and also people clapping—not that off-the-wall holyroller type of clapping, however that happy-in-time easy-going everything-together kind of clapping. Whosever church it was, it was going.
Arthur looked up and also laughed type of quick-like and also pulled in ~ his ear; and one through one the brave ones, the not-so-brave ones, the i know well ones, the square ones, the men and women—one by one, us all claimed thanks in our very own off-the-wall ways:
The two 1950s citations imply that the phrase may have developed in african American slang before crossing over to white U.S. Slang. I remember the "off the wall" to be a famous term in the little east-coast college ns attended in the early-to-mid-1970s—popular enough, in fact, that my friends and also I had actually a regime where, whenever someone alluded come something or someone being "off the wall," we would instantly pretend to attach ourselves magnetically come the nearest wall surface by both hands and both feet, and also proclaim that us were "on the wall."
In 1978, in law school in Texas, i encountered a related phrase: "off the page." our torts professor said our course that in assigning marks because that each answer on the final exam, that awarded 5 points for an excellent answer, 4 because that a very great one, 3 because that an above-average one, 2 for an average one, 1 for a below-average one, and also 0 for solution that to be "off the page."
Harold Wentworth & Stuart Flexner Dictionary that American Slang, first edition (1960) doesn"t perform "off the wall," however it does show that "off the wall" had actually plenty of agency by 1960 as a phrase beginning with off and meaning "crazy":
off adj. Crazy; eccentric; loco. Check out off
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These expressions have actually in usual that the middle term is a possessive pronoun instead of the word the, yet otherwise they it seems ~ quite comparable to "off the wall." Wentworth & Flexner also cites "off the cob" (meaning "corny") indigenous the 1940s. I have actually sometimes wondered even if it is "off the wall" was suggested by the sad fate the Humpty-Dumpty, however I"ve no found any type of support for that idea in recommendation works.