Did you hear someone say the phrase 'off his rocker,' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
'Off his rocker,' in short, is:
‘Off his rocker’ is a slang phrase that means someone is insane or crazy.
In this phrase, ‘his’ is a possessive pronoun. You can change the possessive pronoun in order to fit the situation. For example, you could say any of the following depending on the circumstance:
When referring to a group, it’s common to use the singular form of ‘rocker,’ as in “they’re off their rocker.” However, the plural can also be used, as in “they’re off their rockers.”
There are a number of different theories regarding the origin of ‘off his rocker’ as a phrase.
However, there are other ideas about its origin as well. Another compelling theory is that electric trolleys would be held on their track by long metal strips known as “rockers.” If the trolley went off the track, it could be said to have been ‘off its rocker,’ indicating that it isn’t operating as it should be.
According to one source, the phrase ‘off one’s rocker’ was a commonly used saying around the late 1800s.
Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that 'off his rocker' started becoming more common in publications in the early 1900s. When comparing the various possessive pronouns that can be used in this phrase, it appears that ‘off his rocker’ is the most common form used, followed by ‘off her rocker,’ ‘off my rocker,’ and ‘off your rocker.’
One early example of ‘off his rocker’ in print can be found in Chamber’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts from 1915:
“We all thought Callaghan had gone off his rocker, but it wasn’t so. He’d sat there in the rain and darkness wondering what had happened to the men on the other side, and watching the searchlight glaring on the ruined bridge, when suddenly it was withdrawn, and then a moment later began to shine again in quick, stabbling flashes, some short, some long, and it struck Callaghan that it was remarkably like Morse Code.”
An even earlier example can be found in Harold Begbie’s 1907 publication The Vigil:
Think of him, Captain Stringer, having to sit still and listen to the arguments of other men! Why, it’ll madden the old crow. He’ll go off his rocker. I shouldn’t be surprised if the judge don’t have to commit him for contempt o’ court.”
We find the phrase ‘off her rocker in a 1907 piece in The Strand Magazine:
“In spite of her humour and her mischief, and her love of gin, there was goodness of heart in Mother Moul. Poor Lizer Durkin might be off her rocker on the subject of the Countess, but the visitor was out to do her a good turn.”
Finally, here’s one last example of the phrase ‘off my rocker’ found in a June 1951 issue of Life magazine:
“Last November I really went off my rocker. Lured by my enthusiasm for folding money I acted as mistress of ceremonies for NBC’s “The Big Show,” an hour and a half radio show which permitted me to exchange insults and innuendo with the likes of Fred Allen, Jimmy Durante, Groucho Marx, Jose Ferrer, Bob Hope, Ethel Merman, Charles Boyer.”
How would 'off his rocker' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'off his rocker'?
Here are some options:
‘Off his rocker’ is a phrase used to describe someone that is insane or crazy. The possessive pronoun can be changed to fit the situation, such as ‘off her rocker,’ ‘off your rocker,’ or ‘off my rocker.’
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