I'm interested in the Americanism off of which sounds very odd to British ears. I'd be interested to know more about it.Indeed, Americans would often get off of a [much more common in AmE--in BrE it can have a more restricted meaning] couch, whereas British folk would get off the [available in AmE, but I suspect that the frequency varies regionally] sofa. That's not to say that off of is the only way we put it in AmE, as evidenced by Paul Simon's admonition to Gus to hop off the bus. And Americans didn't make it up. In the OED, one can find the following examples:
But, in a weird twist, AmE speakers are more likely to say go out the window/door than BrE speakers, who more typically go out of the window. According to a corpus study by Maria Estling published in English Today (1999; 15:3.22-7; via John Algeo's British or American English), when going through windows or doors, BrE uses out of twice as often as out and AmE uses out more than six times as much as out of in this context. But BrE differs a lot in spoken (72% out) versus written (80% out of). Algeo investigated this further and found that both BrE and AmE prefer out more strongly with door, but Americans 'more strikingly so'. BrE users are twice as likely to say out with door but AmE speakers are nine times more likely to say out the door.
Algeo goes on to list several more cases in which BrE uses out of and AmE either doesn't, or is less likely to:
- Algeo reports that he's found equal numbers of from King's Cross ([BrE] railway station/[AmE] train station) and out of King's Cross, but no cases of out of Grand Central. I'm not sure if he checked more than just Grand Central though...and whether he knows that Penn Station would be a better test case (because NY Penn Station gets more than four times the traffic of Grand Central, and there are Penn Stations in other cities too). Checking on the web, I find that trains out of Penn Station gets 901 hits, while trains from Penn Station gets 18,100, backing up Algeo's evidence for a difference.
- BrE says out of hours to mean 'outside normal business hours', while AmE would use after hours in most similar contexts.
- BrE kicks people out of the team 96% of the time in Algeo's data (versus off the team) AmE always kicks people off the team.
- BrE sometimes (28% of the time in A's data--the Cambridge Intertnational Corpus) has things being out of all recognition instead of beyond all recognition. AmE always uses the latter.
The Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers welcomes the deposit, by the Russian Federation, of its instrument of ratification of Protocol. [Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers]And without the ofs:
The Chairperson the Committee Ministers welcomes the deposit, by the Russian Federation, its instrument ratification Protocol.The ofs tell us to process the sentence like this:
of the Committee
of its instrument
by the Russian Federation
(That's my attempt at lazy [AmEish] sentence-diagramming on Blogger.)
So, why do you need the glue of of if you've already got a workable preposition? Probably (in part) because there's some ambiguity about whether out and off are prepositions. In many situations, they are adverbial. You can tell the difference in that prepositions require objects--i.e. noun phrases--to go [usually] after them, but an adverb modifies the verb, rather than gluing a noun to a sentence. So:
I jumped off [adverbial; tells something about the direction of your jumping](For the record, the AmE part of my brain is screaming for an of in the second example.)
I jumped off the table [preposition; indicates a relationship between the me-jumping and the table]
If we understand the off to be an adverb, then we'd need a preposition in order to glue the table onto the sentence. But wait one (AmE) gumdanged minute! There are other adverb/preposition pairs that don't have an of variant. What's up with that?
Well, I don't know--I've not researched this, so this is middle-of-the-night rambling, but notice that we don't get *in of or *on of. (* is linguists' way of marking an impossible grammatical construction.) The of seems to signify a movement away, a 'from' meaning. (Notice we do get into and onto-- a 'toward' meaning matches on or in--so we do make compound prepositions with them too.) Why do off and out allow of, while other 'away'-meaning preposition/adverbs, like away, down and up, use from instead? Oh, I don't know...it's past 2 in the morning--stop with the questions already! The most likely answer is 'because that's the way people have started saying it', but I'm tempted to think it's because the others are further to the adverbial side of the preposition-adverb continuum than off and out are and that they therefore need a stronger prepositional support. But then again I don't know that I actually believe it, so I'm going to shut up already [final positioning of already is AmE, influenced by Yiddish]. Good night!