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Shoot off the cuff

Posted by ESC on October 11, 2005

In Reply to: Shoot off the cuff posted by MM on October 11, 2005

: Eversmann says he doesn't like listening to people who look down the whole time they speak. You might as well shoot yourself in the foot if you shoot off the cuff.

: What does the second sentence mean here? Thanks!

I've never heard of "shoot off the cuff." It sounds like a combination of two phrases -- "off the cuff" and "shoot your cuffs."

"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).

SHOOTING YOUR CUFFS - "goes back to the days when celluloid collars and cuffs were the salesman's answer to the laundry problem when on the road. With the high-buttoned jackets of the period, the collar and cuffs were all that showed, and since celluloid could be wiped clean with a damp cloth, a drummer of the period could make a shirt last a week. One of the showy tricks of dandies of the day was to 'shoot their cuffs,' which a dictionary of the period defines as 'making a sudden and ostentatious display of one's cuffs.'." "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

: It is called "To shoot one's linen" in "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition). "To display an unnecessary amount of shirt cuff; to show off."