Implied Offscreen NOOB

A few years back, a friend of mine was watching a horror movie with his precocious ten-year-old son. A couple of characters were out rowing on a lake, and then there was some sort of horrible sound. My friend’s son turned to him and whispered, “Hmmm. Implied off-screen suicide.”

That came to mind the other day when I read a Philadelphia Inquirer article in which Brett Brown, the coach of the 76ers basketball team, made some comments about a young player, Nerlens Noel:


It was clear to me that Brown used the words tick and ticking, and the reporter supplied the American equivalent, check, in brackets. The backstory is that while Brown is a native American, he spent many years playing and coaching in Australia, which is presumably where he learned about ticking boxes.

Coincidentally, just a couple of days later, this appeared in the very same Inquirer:


I would bet dollars to donuts that the word Dan Klecko used to refer to Tom Brady was pissed, which, of course, means something very different in the U.K.

17 thoughts on “Implied Offscreen NOOB

  1. Yes, the “off” is an important addition as it’s essential to the ‘annoyed’ meaning in the UK – leave it off and it’s the ‘drunk’ meaning. In the US it’s just redundant.

    1. Just as an aside, the original U.S. expression was the full “pissed off,” as in first two entries in the OED (the second being Mailer’s “Naked and the Dead,” 1948). I actually feel like I can remember (sometime in the 70s?) when it commonly started being shortened to just “pissed.”

  2. ‘ticks all the boxes’ is an expression my (american) family uses. I realize it’s not print media, but on what I believe was a recent episode of that TV program, Trophy Wife, one of the sons(Warren? – sorry, don’t watch it) referenced a girl he liked as ticking all the boxes. My guess is it’s more common in the U.S. than it may appear.

    1. Shazza, I’d have to say your family is unusual. Check out this chart comparing use of expression “tick the box” in American versus British sources between 1965 and 2000 As for Trophy Wife example, I think it’s evidence that it’s a NOOB!

  3. Dear Ben, ‘ticked off’ in BR Eng means ‘told off’, ‘scolded’. Not ‘pissed off’ (in the sense of annoyed) which is what you seemed to imply. Thanks for your very interesting articles! Amanda

  4. ‘Ticked off’ is used in England with exactly the same meaning as ‘pissed off’

    I suspect it was originally a more polite euphemism – pissed being considered a swear word (albeit a relatively mild one) – in both the angered and drunk sense.

    As pissed is much more acceptable now (as is swearing in general only cunt having much power to shock) you probably don’t hear ticked off much now and it might even seem a bit archaic: the sort of thing an elderly middle class lady might say.

    Speaking of which someone in Guardian comments has just suggested that the use of ‘pissed’ without the additional ‘off’ in American Hustle is anachronistic for the 1970s.

    So at what point did Americans start dropping that ‘off’?

    1. I would suggest that, in the circumstances you propose, your ‘elderly middle class [British] lady’ would utter is “cheesed off” – but that’s whole diffrent kettle of fish.

    2. However, I note that Chambers gives “ticked off” meaning annoyed as an Americanism and agrees with the previous poster that “to tick off” means to reprimand, which is certainly how I would use it.

    3. Urban dictionary is about as authoritative as Wikipedia, as in, it isn’t. “Ticked off” in British (and Australian) English is still commonly used to mean “told off”, or “scolded”: “I forgot my homework and was ticked off by the teacher” sounds natural, whereas “you forgot your homework again; I am really ticked off” still has a flavour of a junior teacher (say aged 22) trying too hard to be cool, i.e. American.

  5. I can actually answer that! In an earlier comment, I guessed that it happened some time in the ’70s. Now I’ve checked the Corpus of Historical American English ( for the word “pissed” at the end of a sentence. The first occurrence that doesn’t mean drunk or urinated comes in Sam Shepherd’s 1971 play “The Mad Dog Blues,” in which a character says: “Boy, is Captain Kidd gonna be pissed,” definitely meaning angry. So American Hustle is safe.

  6. Pissed off, hacked off, cheesed off, browned off – I have never heard a British person say they were ‘ticked off’ when they meant annoyed. I prefer to say ‘I’m feeling a trifle browned off’ – it’s slightly old-fashioned and everybody knows you’re consciously avoiding saying something ruder by means of archaic understatement.

  7. If Rebekah Wade, former CEO of News International, is found guilty of authorising the hacking of hundreds of people’s mobile phones, and then gets away with just a ticking off by the judge, then the members of the anti-hacking pressure group, Hacked-Off, will be…er….pretty cheesed off, to say the least!

  8. I (British English speaker) know of “ticked off” in both the sense of “annoyed” and “scolded”. If they were substituting “ticked off” for “pissed off”, I’d imagine it was to avoid the coarse language (not *very* coarse, but coarse enough to scare off some newspapers) rather than the phrase “pissed off” being confusing to speakers of British English, which it isn’t.

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