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off the cuff

Meaning: If you speak off the cuff, you speak without planning what you will say beforehand.

For example:

  • She wasn't expecting to win, so she hadn't prepared a speech, but she still managed to say a few words off the cuff after being given the award.

  • The prime minister keeps making off-the-cuff remarks that get him into trouble.

Note: When used to modify a noun or a noun phrase, this idiom should be written with hyphens, as in "an off-the-cuff comment".

Origin: Possibly related to the fact that people sometimes write last-minute notes on the cuff of their shirt's sleeve before making a speech or saying a few words.

Quick Quiz:

Professor Sacks had to give the lecture off the cuff because
  1. the microphone was broken
  2. he couldn't speak English
  3. he was filling in for someone who was ill

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