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Author Topic: On the expressions "off of" and " for free"  (Read 2299 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: May 19, 2009, 04:01:03 PM »

Joe,

Your objection to "off of" is well stated.    It's a phrase that is not only ungrammatical but one that grates.     Strangely, while it is accepted widely in the USA as a spoken phrase, it is rare to see it in print.    I have seen is written but once, and then as dialogue.

What concerns me lately is another "standard" Americanism - "for free".    This regrettable utterance has become widespread in Australia over the past two years, initially and continually by the advertising fraternity (surprise! surprise!) and now increasingly by the general population.

When the Americans won their independence, there was a nationalistic move to adopt their own (not English) language.    That moved was knocked on the head - or was it?

It’s good to know that you also feel the same aversion to the hideous “off of” prepositional construct. I hope more and more of us will agree to consign it to the dustbin of linguistic history where it belongs. My most optimistic expectation—no, I won’t call it a fearless forecast--is that by the year 2020, the entries for “off of” would be down to as low as 1,000,000 from its current 107,000,000. We can both scream and dream, can’t we?

As to “for free,” the expression is also endemic in the Philippines: “She got the toothbrush for free.” “That widget is being offered for free.”  I personally have gotten so used to it since childhood that I don’t feel uncomfortable with the usage at all. I would presume that you’d rather use “at no cost” instead, as in “She got the toothbrush at no cost.” “That widget is being offered at no cost.” As you know, however, advertisers would always go at great lengths to convey the impression that people are getting something for nothing, “for free.” This is why I think banning “for free” from English most anywhere in our fiercely consumer-driven society is very much like King Canute ordering the ocean waves from rushing to the shore.

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Read my column "The 'off of' bad-grammar pandemic in The Manila Times

« Last Edit: May 19, 2009, 04:05:38 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

maxsims
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2009, 11:21:08 AM »

I would presume that you’d rather use “at no cost” instead, as in “She got the toothbrush at no cost.” “That widget is being offered at no cost.”

No, I would simply say "free"...!
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2009, 01:41:56 PM »

I would presume that you’d rather use “at no cost” instead, as in “She got the toothbrush at no cost.” “That widget is being offered at no cost.”

No, I would simply say "free"...!

I see your point. Simply using "free" does work very concisely and beautifully in "That widget is being offered free." However, in "She got the toothbrush free," the sentence yields the extra sense of the doer of the action (at least in the American English sense of "got" as a causative verb)  having been able to get the the toothbrush off some entanglement, as in being wedged in some tight spot in the cupboard. So perhaps we should be more flexible in choosing between "free" and "at no cost" to avoid creating wrong or double meanings in our sentences. Of course, we still have the third option of using "for free," which understandably doesn't sit in well with you because of the superfluous "for."   
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