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Off The Cuff

Posted by ESC on April 28, 2004

In Reply to: Off The Cuff posted by Rube on April 28, 2004

: : This is an expression I cannot think of any connection to, anyone care to enlighten me?"

: Back in the days of separate collars and cuffs, it is alleged that notes for extemporaneous speaking were jotted onto the cuff of the speaker's shirt. Makes sense to me.
: Certainly the hand and possibly the cuff as well were handy spots for 'crib notes'.

: Why are they crib notes?

"On the cuff apparently arose at the turn of the century. Since bartenders commonly wore starched white cuffs at the time, the theory that our term for 'on credit' derives from bartenders jotting down the debts of patrons on their cuffs during the rush of business is an appealing one. 'On the arm' probably derives from 'on the cuff,' while 'off the cuff,' unrehearsed or extemporaneous, may come from impromptu notes early Hollywood directors jotted down on their cuffs while shooting a difficult scene in a movie. These ideas, not in the script, were conveyed to the actors when the scene was reshot." From the "Encylopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).