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Joshua Schachter is surrounded by lawyers and his phone is ringing off the hook.

As far as I know, the meaning of the idiom 'off the hook' is 'Freed (from blame/obligation)';however, in the above sentence, it seems to me, has a different meaning. Please explain.
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Hi,

Joshua Schachter is surrounded by lawyers and his phone is ringing off the hook.

As far as I know, the meaning of the idiom 'off the hook' is 'Freed (from blame/obligation)';however, in the above sentence, it seems to me, has a different meaning. Please explain.

Yes, it's a different meaning. Think of a phone on a wall. 'The hook' is what you hang the phone receiver on, when you are finished talking. Phones today have changed physically, but a lot of these old phrases remain in use. Even today, we 'hang up' when we are finished speaking. We say a phone 'rings', although today they don't have bells.

His phone was ringing so much that it jumped, or fell, off the hook. Even if there's no actual hook, we just say this to mean his phone was constantly ringing.

Best wishes, Clive
Thanks, Clive. So, I interpret the meaning of 'off the hook', here, as 'continuously'.
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Hi,

More or less. It also means 'a lot', 'almost continuously'.

Clive
Does anyone else find


"Joshua Schachter is surrounded by lawyers and his phone is ringing itself off the hook."
more natural?

MrP
Not at all, Mr. P. A phone do not ring itself; it rings when an incoming call activates the ringer.

More generally, the phrase "ringing of the hook" is an idiom and as such defies a logical explanation. It's probably more appropriately explained by the visual language of cartoons -- loud ringing making the cartoon phone dance on the receiver (hook). In real life, it has the connotation of consecutive phone calls; as soon as one finishes a call and hangs up the phone, it rings again with another incoming call, and so on. It implies a very busy, hectic, or tense situation. In the example cited -- Joshua Schachter is surrounded by lawyers and his phone is ringing off the hook -- one would suppose that poor Joshua is besieged, not only by many people attempting to speak to him by telephone, but by a phalanx of lawyers as well. He has our sympathy.
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Hi MrP,

Not me, not anymore. But I'm sinking fast in an ocean of corrupt and decadent language. Save yourself, I beg you!

Clive
MrPedantic
Does anyone else find


"Joshua Schachter is surrounded by lawyers and his phone is ringing itself off the hook."
more natural?

MrP

I do, MrP, I do!

In fact, when I hear this:


"Joshua Schachter is surrounded by lawyers and his phone is ringing off the hook."
it makes me think the phone is off the hook and ringing.

MrP²
Such antics!

How about

"The phone is ringing (to the point of falling) off the hook."

the analogy being with the phrasal verb "to fall off"?

Cf. 'shaking/brushing an insect off one's sleeve' (This doesn't mean picking up the little fellow and shaking/brushing him, does it?) Emotion: smile

Ah, but the structure is different, you will say. You don't say that the insect shook off my sleeve, nor that it shook itself off my sleeve.
To which I reply, having no better answer at the moment, "Nertz!"
Maybe someone else can come up with a better example to illustrate my point.

CJ
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