Off the wall

Off the wall is a popular idiom with an unknown origin. 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, 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 or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, 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. 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 idiom off the wall, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Off the wall is an idiom that describes something odd, something outside the norm, something strange, bizarre, unconventional or unexpected. A person may be considered off the wall or he may have done something that is off the wall. The term off the wall is generally considered to be an American idiom and first appeared in the 1950s. It became popular in the 1960s. Some believe the idiom off the wall is related to the phrase bouncing off the walls, an idiom that means to be going crazy. Others believe the term came from sports, where balls may be bouncing off walls. Many believe that the idiom off the wall came from the African-American community. The term off the wall is spelled with hyphens when used as an adjective before a noun, as in off-the-wall.


When he’s collaborating with Toksvig and others on the opening sketches, Fielding knows that the very off-the-wall style of comedy he usually writes wouldn’t work for the show. (The New York Times)

So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. (Bloomberg News)

It’s about being able to connect the dots between the seemingly off-the-wall question and what the interviewer is really trying to find out. (Forbes Magazine)

Perhaps I was just being naive, but up until now I’ve always tended to give the Independent TD the benefit of the doubt whenever I heard some of his off-the-wall comments. (The Irish Mirror)

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