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Off the hook

Posted by P. Frymier on June 20, 2001

I work with graduate students from all over the world and frequently use idioms and phrases that I need to define. I used the phrase "off the hook" today in a discussion but want to check my assumption of the origin of this phrase.

I have assumed that this comes from the fact that meat in processing plants is hung on "meat hooks" suspended from a rack to facilitate moving the heavy carcasses. To be "on the hook" would certainly be a painful position, so that being "off the hook" would be a relief. Therefore, "off the hook" could be used to indicate being removed from a painful situation.

Can anyone verify this in any way? I searched the archives and did not find anything, but I just stumbled across this resource a couple of days ago.