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