Out of the blocks and off the blocks

Out of the blocks and off the blocks are two versions of an idiom. An idiom is a commonly used 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 like an often-used metaphor 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 common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, 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, because 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying out of the blocks or off the blocks, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Out of the blocks or off the blocks means at the very beginning or from the very start. The expression out of the blocks is used about three times as often as off the blocks. The blocks referred to in both iterations of this idiom are starting blocks for a foot race. Starting blocks were invented by Charlie Booth, an Australian, in 1929. Before this time, runners would dig holes in the track so they could place their toes in them for push off at the start of a race. By 1937, starting blocks for foot races became standard. Starting block design has changed over the years and is always evolving. The idioms out of the blocks and off the blocks may also be expressed as out of the starting blocks and off the starting blocks.


However, sticking a pin in the revolutionary rhetoric of livestreaming companies that burst out of the blocks during the pandemic, Rapino added that when it comes to viewing concert footage online, “Most people don’t want to watch two hours of their favorite band.” (Rolling Stone Magazine) 

That work started for her right out of the blocks, right when she graduated from law school, and that work kept her going right up until the very end. (Ms. Magazine)

Obviously, right off the blocks, we didn’t stick rigidly to the “one trip outdoors for exercise” rule. (The Times)

‘Right off the blocks on the first day of filming, George was just fired up!’ Sonia, 53, told OK! magazine on Thursday. (Daily Mail)

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