Submitted by ally on April 11, 2009

Cut on/off

Since I’ve moved to North Carolina I have heard many people say “Cut on/off” the power or lights or any electronic device, and I’m very curious as to why.

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That's an interesting question. It reminds me of the phrase "cut the power!"
I haven't heard the phrase used to refer to light switches, but we do say "cut off" the electricity in reference to other things- such as disabling an electric fence. This seems to make more sense as it is clear in these cases you are literally cutting off a device's source of electric current; the verb seems less out of place.

So perhaps this has simply been adapted for the simple act of flicking a light switch?

As we know, speakers of the English language will happily reverse any statement they have learned to attempt to communicate its opposite, so I could easily see "cutting off" soon being accompanied by "cutting on".

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I'm highly skeptical of the knife-switch explanation. (I do love those gizmos, however.)

Of course, I cannot be autoritative about it, but I have always thought that this stemmed from:

"Cut the power" + "Turn off the power"
"Cut off the power" (similar to "cut off the flow" or "cut off access to")
By analysis, "Cut on the power."

This then has led to "cut that off," and "cut that on." I've heard both in use.

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I found out why! The phrase historically comes from blade switches when you actually cut off/on the lights!!!

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That's curious. I don't know why. Have you only ever heard people say "turn it on" or "turn it off"? I've heard it all my life and never thought of it.

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Good for you, Ally! I'm glad you asked.

I still don't know, but I am wondering then whether it is just because we are so habituated to the phrase "turn on" and "turn off," and that "cut" is not viewed as a termination of something, but just another verb serving the function of indicating some action with a preposition, as "turn" might be. Or maybe there is the sense of "cut" as a "shift."

Not an explanation, but an attempt. Have a great spring break!

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I live in North Carolina. At first I was thinking "No... I've never heard that before". However, after some thought I realized you're right. Though, I only remember "cut off" not "cut on" the lights. Perhaps giving off a tone to end the death of the lights, so to speak.

I don't hear the phrase all too often. Usually the more common "turn on/off" is said.

I do not know of its origin. This is a very interesting question! I'd like to know also.

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