John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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“get off with”

In the 1960’s there was an unresolved disagreement between Peter Gooding and me about what the expression “to get off with” meant. If Chris, for example, told me, “I got off with a bird last night”, I would assume that he had been necking (snogging) with her, but not necessarily doing any more than that. In fact, I might then ask him, “What did you get off her?”, meaning, “Did she let you do more than kiss her?” Peter, however, maintained that if you said you’d got off with a girl, it meant that you’d had sexual intercourse with her. That’s what it meant where he came from, he said. (Was he referring to his former home in—was it Percy Street, Blackpool? Or his home before that in Northwich, Cheshire? Or was he just making it up?)

Collins English Dictionary defines get off with as a British informal expression meaning
to establish a sexual relationship with
—which tends to support Peter’s view.

But according to Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), get off with is a colloquialism meaning
to make friends with one of the opposite sex esp[ecially] with a view to “a good time”.
It was originally (1914 or 1915) military, but by 1918 had become general. This might support Chris’s and my view, unless military personnel considered that they had not had “a good time” if they had not had sex with the person concerned.

Wiktionary, at the date of writing this article, defined get off with thus:
(UK, idiomatic) To befriend someone and snog them, especially in a public place.

Chris wrote, 17 March 2009 10:11:
Well, that's interesting: "To befriend someone and snog them, especially in a public space." I guess that was, more or less, our understanding of what it meant to get off with someone, back then. I think Peter was exaggerating somewhat!

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