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Etymology (Meaning of Words)/Etymology of 'Off'. e.g. Play-off / Face-off / Cook-off

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Question
I noticed you answered a question similar to this one - http://en.allexperts.com/q/Etymology-Meaning-Words-1474/2010/1/Origin-word-Playo
but I want to know why 'off' is used as a suffix to describe competitions. For example 'bake-off'.

Answer
Dear Danny:

"Bake-off" and other similar terms are fairly recent additions to the English language.  As you can see from the Oxford English Dictionary entry pasted below, "bake-off" is primarily used in Australia and the United States.  The "-off" suffix suggests that the contest has reached its final phase of competition.  Consequently, the contest is no longer going "on."  I checked the comparison with "cook-off," and the definition was simply a "cookery competition."  

The first recorded written example of "bake-off" was in 1949.  This bake-off was described as "grand final.'  I believe that the extra adjectives, because Pillsbury began their contests with a bake-off in each of the 48 [at that time] states.  As I remember the contest procedures, there were several "rounds," with the winner of each round appearing in the "grand final."  At any rate, the "-off" signaled the end of the competition.  The meaning is the same for other areas, such as sports.  My university's men's basketball team was one of the eight finalists for the national championship in the smaller school division.  Each of the eight teams played another of the eight teams, resulting in four winners.  The next step pitted those four against each other, reducing the championship to two semi-finalists.  My team is now one of the two teams remaining in the championship contest.  Tomorrow afternoon those two will face each other in a "playoff" game.  It will be the END of the championship, with one team winning the national title.

-OFF means "over" or "the end."  The contest is no longer ON.

Ted Nesbitt -- Please take a moment to rate my answer and consider my work for the "volunteer of the month award."  Thank you.


Pronunciation:  Brit. /ˈbeɪkɒf/ , U.S. /ˈbeɪkˌɔf/ , /ˈbeɪkˌɑf/
Etymology:  < bake v. + off adv., after play-off n. Compare cook-off n.
Chiefly U.S. and Austral.
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 A baking competition, esp. one between non-professional contestants. Also in extended use. Cf. cook-off n.
1949   Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Press 1 Dec. 3/1   In a grand final bake-off at the Waldorf-Astoria, Pillsbury Mills will award $150,000 in prizes.
1965   Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 18 July 22/2   The Bake-Off..attracts national attention as the greatest recipe quest in this country.
1987   G. Keillor Leaving Home (1989) 113   The bake-off was part of the afternoon grandstand program.
2003   Guardian 26 June (Life section) 25/1   In a series of ‘bake-off’ tests between Apple and Intel systems, Jobs showed the G5 system completing a variety of graphical tasks well ahead of its Intel-powered rival.  

Etymology (Meaning of Words)

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Ted Nesbitt

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I have an interest in the meanings of words and phrases, as well as how and when they became part of the English language. I enjoy researching idioms, colloquialisms, dialects, and obscurities of all kinds. I prefer short questions on a particular subject, and I will not accept lengthy research projects or term papers. NOTE: ALLEXPERTS CLAIMS THAT I TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LATIN AND FROM LATIN TO ENGLISH. I DO NOT. ALLEXPERTS REFUSES TO DELETE THE LATIN-TO-ENGLISH SERVICE -- ONE THAT I DO NOT PROVIDE. TRUST ME ON THIS: ALLEXPERTS IS WRONG. I DO NOT TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LANGUAGE. LOOK FOR A LANGUAGE EXPERT INSTEAD. ETYMOLOGY AND TRANSLATING SERVICES ARE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. ALLEXPERTS SHOULD KNOW THAT. ALLEXPERTS DOES NOT KNOW THAT. I HAVE TRIED FOR MANY YEARS TO GET THEM TO CHANGE. THEY WILL NOT. SORRY, BUT I DO NOT TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LATIN.

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public
college. My master's thesis concerns William Faulkner's tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.
I have been a member of the grammar and writing section of Allexperts
for more than a year.



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Masters degrees in English, philosophy, and library science.

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