Off the boil

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 16, 2005

In Reply to: Off the boil posted by Smokey Stover on October 16, 2005

: : : What is "off the boil?"

: : : I suspect it means not excited (hot) to do something. But I have to use it in a play and it seems to imply that my husband stopped wanting to have sex. Is it always meant to be sexual? Or does it apply to other things as well? Thanks.

: : I've never heard it in the U.S. I'll check my reference books. It makes me think of old wood cookstoves. If you wanted a pot or kettle to boil, you moved it to a hot part of the stove right over the firebox.

: And if you move it off the hot part of the stove, or off the burner on a modern stove, the kettle is now "off the boil," and the phrase has been often used that way. But of course it may have a figurative use, as well. SS
It's certainly not only used in a sexual context. Here in the UK pretty much any kind of project, plan or activity can be said to have gone "off the boil" if it has lost impetus. If someone has deliberately made this happen, it may be said to have been "put on the back burner"; if this has happened spontaneously, you could say that it has just "run out of steam" - a metaphor from the days of steam propulsion.