THE MAKING OFF.

Here’s a splendid misappropriation of an English phrase that’s made its way around the world, mostly unbeknownst to the speakers of English itself: Mark Liberman at Language Log reports on the international term making off, meaning “The recording of the director and actors describing the making of a film.” There is discussion at Mark’s post of the mechanism of of becoming off, which is interesting, but what delights me is the variety of languages to which the term has spread. Mark lists Spanish (“un tutorial podría ser un making off”), French (“Il s’agirait d’une video du making-off du film Titanic”), Portuguese (“Participar do ‘making off’ dessas fotos maravilhosas”), Italian (“Così mi è venuta l’idea del making off, che nella prima stesura rappresentava quasi il sessanta per cento del film”), German (“Nachdem es ja jetzt hip ist über alles und jeden ein Making off zu machen”), and Dutch (“Vandaag is op het net het making-off filmpje opgedoken waarbij je de ‘gangster’ aan het werk kunt zien”), and Slavomír Čéplö (of the wonderful blog bulbulovo, sadly in hiatus) adds Slovak (“Prosim ta ked by si mal niekedy cas mohol by si uploadnut nieco z nasledujucich making off´s”—”note the English plural, the Slovak plural would be ‘making off-ov’“), Czech (“V upoutávce na making off zvolili dost úsměvné věty”), Polish (“Strona składa się z 4 dużych części: portfolio agencji, nagrody, szkolenia i making-off, czyli kulisów produkcji”), Hungarian (“Föleg ha egy making off-ot megnézünk a GT-röl”), Finnish (“Making off-pätkät on tarpeellisia varsinkin muille videoita tekeville”), Maltese (“ma nafx imma waqt li kont qed nara il-making off u rajt lil kristina…”), and of all things Breton (“Aze e vo kavet ganeoc’h pep tra diwar benn pennoberenn Diwan, interview ar c’hoarierien, ur making off, an arvestoù c’hwitet gant hag all hag all”). This is truly remarkable, and I’d love to see somebody research the timeline: when it got started in which language, and what lines of transmission it followed.
And of course speakers of all those languages assume it’s a perfectly good English word!

Comments

  1. I too was taken aback when I first noticed the use of ‘making of’ in French a few years ago. It should be noted however that ‘making of’ is much more common in French than ‘making off’. Google has only 600,000 French language hits for ‘making off’, versus 1.74 million for ‘making of’. On the other hand, although I have never seen ‘making off’ written in French, it is often pronounced that way.
    You might say that these non-native speakers are ‘making off’ with the purity of our dear English language… :-)

  2. Pure mongrel, you mean.

  3. I recall years ago in France when all the Parisian McDonald’s outlets were closed due to some dispute between the franchise owner and corporate HQ. The franchise owner reopened them all as “O’Kitch,” and they were pretty much identical to McDonald’s but just altered enough to prevent a lawsuit.
    But the name, “O’Kitch” mystified me, until several Parisians laughed at my astounding ignorance and explained that “o’kitch” is popular American slang for “straight from the kitchen,” and everyone in America uses it all the time!

  4. toledojohn says:

    I was fascinated by the international usage of “making off” and did a Google search of it in Greek… and found it there, too! Amazing!
    Λίγο πριν τη μεγάλη συναυλία του “50 Cent” στην Ελλάδα, ο ΑΝΤ1 προβάλλει τo making off της ταινίας “GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN”…
    http://tv.antenna.gr/articleDetail/0,4051,134393,00.html

  5. michael farris says:

    As good a place as any to point out that ‘off’ is used as a noun by itself in Polish (and it seems maybe some other languages) with a meaning like ‘fringe’ or ‘non-mainstream’ (occasionally ‘offstage’). Some example:
    Sztuka współczesna na Offie
    “Contemporary art on the fringe”
    “Off to inspiracja”
    “Non-mainstream (art) is inspiring (lit. inspiration)”
    “Ambitne plany z offu”
    Ambitious plans from outside the mainstream
    “Makbet na motocyklu – czyli trzy dni z offem”
    Macbeth on a motorcycle – or three days with the fringe
    “To, co nazywamy offem w filmie, wcale nie jest offem, to raczej po prostu rozwijające się młode kino”
    What we call non-mainstream in film isn’t non-mainstream at all, instead it’s just young developing cinema
    meaning offstage:
    “W PROLOGU kobiecy głos płynący z offu…”
    In the prologue, a female voice from offstage …

  6. My impression is that “making of” (rather than “…off”) is much more common in (my primary language) German also – no time to do the Google acrobatics right now, but I wonder whether “off” is actually more common in *any* of these.
    I did have time to check and find that “the making of [whatever]” is in fact not an unusual title formula for documentaries or articles on the creation or production of something, even in English. Using “making of” as a noun to refer to that sort of thing, I suppose, is fairly natural (and I’ve encountered it before, in German), but I’m puzzled by the idea that “off” would be more frequent anywhere…
    (Interestingly, just “off” as a noun as noted in Polish by Michael Farris exists in German as well, with the same set of meanings, though I think less frequently used in the most general sense.)

  7. “Off” in the meaning “off-stage” is well-established theatrical jargon in German, and it can be found in conservative German dictionaries at least from the seventies.

  8. Perhaps it was a mispronunciation of “making of” in a language which didn’t have a “v” sound (or maybe not a word-final “v”), then respelled in English and circulated in print.

  9. Somewhat reminiscent of the French nativization of “le bestophe” with the devoiced final consonant in place of the /v/ in the original “of”.

  10. And having thought to google for, I just found one solitary hit for “making ophe”.

  11. Good point about “making of” being more popular in those languages. If “making off” is just a common typo/misspelling, I guess it’s a lot less interesting. Sigh.

  12. I’ve spoken to several people who use the term “making off” and it seems to me that there is some sort of reanalysis taking place here: the particle/preposition/??? “of” occurring at the end of a clause is something the speakers of Slovak and Hungarian I interviewed find strange and unfamiliar. What they are familiar with, however, is the concept of phrasal verbs (drilled into them in every English class) and terms like “piss off” and “fuck off”. Thus even if they see the correct version, they can’t immediately – or at all – make sense out of it and reanalyze it the best they can.
    Maybe that’s what happens to native speakers, too, only they reanalyze “of” as “off” mainly because of the infamous “no dangling prepositions” rule.

  13. Tom Stoddart says:

    Doesn’t seem to have landed in Scandinavia. I have my correction pen poised…

  14. I have seen this many, many times in Spanish. I agree with bulbul’s reanalysis theory, as people are (slightly more) familiar with “X off” constructs.

  15. I don’t think those examples are real typos or reanalysis. We foreigners simply have a hard time distinguishing between of and off.
    @Tom Stoddart: Depending on your definition of Scandinavia, here’s one: http://www.kjak.fo/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4335&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15&sid=98aa5bd3a479467a3fc04dd670fb8492

  16. There are at least two “-Off” store chains in Japan these days, Book-Off and House-Off, which sell secondhand (“cast-off”) books and household goods, respectively. This pattern has amusing possibilities of extension as the reselling of secondhand entertainment goods increases: Sound-Off, [World] Beat-Off, Cos[tume]-Off, etc.

  17. Hebrew “מייקינג אוף” gets only a few hundred Google-hits, which is odd, seeing as usually Hebrew loves nothing better than to pillage other languages for vocabulary. Funnily enough, “מייקינג עוף” gets a few hits as well (same pronunciation, but using the spelling that means “chicken” instead of the normal loanword spelling for the second word).

  18. “Off” can mean “off stage” in English, at least in connection with “noises.” That’s what it means in the title of the play “Noises Off.”

  19. David Marjanović says:

    That’s bizarre. I knew making of and making-of but have never before encountered making off.
    Hungarian has a grammatical ending -röl? That’s just cool. Maybe I should learn it after all!

    meaning offstage:
    “W PROLOGU kobiecy głos płynący z offu…”
    In the prologue, a female voice from offstage …

    That exists in German, too (“aus dem Off”).

    Interestingly, just “off” as a noun as noted in Polish by Michael Farris exists in German as well, with the same set of meanings

    Never encountered any except the abovementioned one. Where exactly are you from? :-)

    Perhaps it was a mispronunciation of “making of” in a language which didn’t have a “v” sound (or maybe not a word-final “v”),

    Very few people get the idea that of is not supposed to be pronounced the same way as off. It’s a spelling-pronunciation that even I use most of the time. And then the final /v/ already gets devoiced in a lot of assimilation processes in English… And of course German lacks word-final /v/ (not just [v] but /v/), though most of the other listed languages don’t.

  20. mollymooly says:

    English-speakers often misspell lose and loose; the single-double spelling change seems to bear no relation to the pronunciation changes. The off-of differences are about as unrelated, but anglophones seldom have trouble since they’re so common.

  21. Never encountered any except the abovementioned one. Where exactly are you from? :-)
    I mostly grew up in Mecklenburg. As far as I can tell you’re right in that the “offstage” sense is clearly the most common. What other uses there are on the first few pages of a Google search for “aus dem Off” mostly seem to be simply using this as a metaphor, which is what I would have expected, though that may not have been clear…

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Ah. That’s another world. I’m from Austria.

  23. Very interesting… as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    That’s yet another world! :-)

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