Signed off

The other day I heard that one of my colleagues had been “signed off”. As this was the first time I’d heard this expression in this context I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Later I discovered that she had been signed off by her doctor due to carpal tunnel syndrome and would be spending a week or two at home resting.

Have you heard this expression used in this way before?

I’ve heard of radio and television stations signing off at the end of the day, though many stations no longer do so as they broadcast 24 hours a day. I’ve also heard of projects, expenses and budgets being signed off.

There are a number of other English idioms involved signing here, including sign on, sign up (for), sign over and sign out. I suspect such expressions, and similar ones like get on/off/up/down, etc. might be quite tricky for learners of English.

This entry was posted in English, Idioms, Language, Words and phrases.

0 Responses to Signed off

  1. lynneguist says:

    I dealt with such ‘institutional verbs‘ on some time ago…’sign on’ and ‘sign off’ work in these senses in British English, but not American English.

  2. Alan Coady says:

    The expression “signed off” is very common in Scotland – as was “signing on” in the Thatcher years.

  3. Halabund says:

    Yes, for me this is the most difficult part of learning English. English seems to have a relatively simple grammar/morphology (compared to my mother tongue), but it compensates this with a huge number of words and idioms whose meaning cannot be deduced by logic.

    This is what the Oxford dictionary says about “signing off”:

    I. 5. b. (a) With off. gen., to record that one is bringing something to an end, to stop doing something; spec. (i) Broadcasting, to cease broadcasting, to announce the end of a broadcast; (ii) to fall silent, to withdraw one’s attention; (iii) to record leaving one’s work, to stop work; (iv) Bridge, to indicate by a conventional bid that one is ending the bidding.

    “1838 EMERSON Addr. Cambr. Wks. (Bohn) II. 200 In the country neighbourhoods, half parishes are signing off, to use the local term. 1859 BARTLETT Dict. Amer. (ed. 2), To sign off, to release a debtor by agreeing to accept whatever he offers to pay. 1878 MRS. STOWE Poganuc P. iii. 18 The revolution..which broke up the State Church and gave to every man the liberty of ‘signing off’, as it was called, to any denomination that pleased him. 1923 Sci. Amer. Nov. 310/3 The local broadcasting stations have ‘signed off’ for the night. 1929 WODEHOUSE Mr. Mulliner Speaking vi. 206 If you’re trying to propose to me, sign off. There is nothing doing.”

    Draft additions March 2004 :

    U.S. colloq. to sign off on: to assent or give one’s approval to, by or as if by signing an agreement.

    “1930 N.Y. Times 29 Nov. 15/3 Princeton has signed off on graduate coaching for baseball. 1973 New Yorker 19 May 90/2 The military bureaucracy, most notably the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would have to ‘sign off’ on (Washington jargon for ‘approve’) the American proposal.”

  4. Chibi says:

    I’m sure it’s even harder for learners of English when they find out that, not only are there these verb+preposition phrases that vary based on preposition, but each one could mean multiple different things depending on context, and sometimes formal vs. colloquial/slang, which can be especially awkward with ones that have a “normal” meaning, and then a meaning that is sexual in nature (such as “get off”, “make out”, “turn on” etc.).

    I know for me, adapting my knowledge of these to other languages is someone difficult, as other languages tend to use completely different prepositions than what “makes sense” to me. (ex: in English, we say “to look FOR smth” but in German, they say “suchen NACH (after)” whereas “look after” means something completely different in English).

  5. TJ says:

    Usually here we say “he has AN off” … well grammatically this is not correct I guess but anyway I’m trying to translate what we say in our dialect here which is not English after all … you can think of it as an abbreviation for the phrase “he has a day off”
    We also use “sign in” and “sign up” when it comes to computers and emails or so … they are almost regular terms in our daily life now. Few people use the Arabic counterpart for such terms, and maybe only when it comes to some email or some services over the net that are in Arabic originally.

  6. Stuart, London says:

    I come from the Brighton area where Simon lives and I am familiar with the term “sign off” in this context – is it a term not found all over Britain (and further afield)?

  7. LandTortoise says:

    But surely this is standard British English. To be signed off by one’s doctor is a common enough expression. Why are we commenting on it?

  8. Simon says:

    LandTortoise – I first heard it in the context of just being signed off, without mention of a doctor – that’s what I wasn’t sure about. Later when someone else said ‘signed of by the doctor’, I realised what it meant.

  9. I’ve never heard “signed off” used exactly that way. But then again, I’m American. In the States we might say that the doctor “signed off on granting the patient permission not to work” but it would sound odd to say that “a patient was signed off by a doctor.”

  10. Seumas says:

    Ditto to Alan’s earlier comment. We use this idiom all the time in Scotland.

  11. Swaroop says:

    When you said the doctor signed off.. that reminded me of some one being “written off”. Well that’s a scarier expression if it’s being done by a doctor!

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