Off the rack and off the peg

Off the rack and off the peg are idioms that mean the same thing but are used in different parts of the world. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words, or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the phrases off the rack and off the peg, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

Off the rack describes clothing that is mass-produced for the public. Many garments constructed of the same fabric and sewn in the same pattern are made for the general public. Off-the-rack clothing is generally designed to fit the largest group possible. It is not tailor-made for a specific person to his or her measurements. The image is of clothing hanging on a rack in a store. Another term for off the rack is ready to wear. Off the rack is primarily an American idiom that came into use in the mid-twentieth century, and may be used to mean anything that is produced for a mass market. When used as an adjective before a noun, the term is hyphenated as in off-the-rack.

Off the peg also describes mass-produced clothing for the general public. Off the peg is primarily a British idiom that came into use in the very late nineteenth century. The image is of clothing hanging on a peg. Off the peg is also used to mean anything produced for a mass market. When used as an adjective before a noun, the term is also hyphenated as in off-the-peg.


While that’s good news for manufacturers of informal wear, from Bermuda shorts to jeans and T-shirts you buy off the rack, local menswear tailors will not be pleased to hear it. (The Business Times)

Back then, we embroidered flowers on our off-the-rack jeans, let our hair grow long and wild, sewed fringe onto our denim jackets — anything to distinguish ourselves, make us stand out from the pack. (Philadelphia Magazine)

While you can get some great tailoring on the high street right now, unless you’re built to model-sized specifications, chances are an off-the-peg fit will always be a little off. (GQ Magazine)

The more left-leaning members veer towards the casual — with extra socialist points for corduroy — while Tory men tend to have their off-the-peg suits pinched and tucked. (The Financial Times)

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