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When listing out items, we sometimes prefix the first item with "First off...".

Sometimes I hear people prefix the second item with "Second off...". This doesn't sound right to me? But, is it correct to use?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is an easy logical step from first off to second off, and there’s no grammatical argument against it.

However it is exceedingly rare, and markedly informal, if the Corpus of Contemporary American English is any indication. I found only three uses:

There about a thousand things wrong with what I’m hearing him tell me to do. First off, if you burn the money they can’t have it cause it’s all burnt up. Second off, Heaven don’t have a checking account at the Bank of Hell.

“First off,” Amanda said, “I ain’t movin shit. Second off, it ain’t no thing. It’s a classic. Third off, you better get out my damn face. This a free country, man. You ain’t no fuckin parkin police.”

First off, who’s your inspiration? Second off, is there any truth to the rumor between you and Justin?

Note that the first two are from fiction, and both those characters are using a decidedly non-standard dialect. So only the last item is something someone just naturally said. That’s just one use of second off in a 425 million word corpus.

Anything that rare is going to sound funny to people, so I recommend avoiding second off.

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No, it doesn't mean anything. The "off" is a colloquial intensifier that emphasizes starting a list of points. If you then say "second" or "secondly" or "next" for the following point, there's no confusion or loss of meaning.

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apparently, there are some people who are comfortable using these ordinalities for these phrases up to the 7th:

"first off" - 18,800,000 results

"first off" + "second off" - 889,000 results

"first off" + "second off" + "third off" - 64,100 results

"first off" + "second off" + "third off" + "fourth off" - 10,900 results

"first off" + "second off" + "third off" + "fourth off" + "fifth off" - 3,530 results

"first off" + "second off" + "third off" + "fourth off" + "fifth off" + "sixth off" - 2,050 results

"first off" + "second off" + "third off" + "fourth off" + "fifth off" + "sixth off" + "seventh off" - 463 results

so my educated guess is that if you were a descriptive (vs. a prescriptive) grammarian, you would think that based on these searches that there are groups of people not only comfortable in using "first off" with "second off" but are also comfortable using the ordinalities :)

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Google results stuff the ballot box. Even so, the drop to "second-off" is more than one order of magnitude. That's helpful when determining a proper ration of black and red ink to keep on hand, I suppose... – mfe Apr 26 '11 at 17:08

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