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I want to say something like "I hope saying xyz will not turn the interviewer off (from hiring me)" or "I don't want to turn off your interest in the project" but I am unsure if it is an awkward way to use "turn off" as I have only heard it in a sexual context. If yes, what would be a generally applicable term equivalent to it that can be used in the context I am in?

Thanks

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Alternatively, someone could "turn me on" to Thai food. That would, god I hope, not be a sexual use of that expression. –  Sam Dec 5 '12 at 0:14
    
Am I missing something? I never heard of "turn off" having any sexual connotations (outside the trivial possibility that if someone turns you off you probably won't be having sex with them). I can't find any sexually-oriented definitions by a quick Google search. What exactly is it supposed to mean "in a sexual context"? –  FumbleFingers Dec 23 '12 at 3:19
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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think the sentences I hope saying xyz will not turn the interviewer off (from hiring me) and I don't want to turn off your interest in the project are unacceptable in a serious business context. Try these two:

I hope saying xyz will not prejudice the interviewer against me.

and

I don't want to dampen your interest in the project.

There are many other ways of saying these things. Using ambiguous clichés is usually a bad idea unless you're doing it for a specific reason and are willing to accept the consequences of the inevitable misunderstandings they will generate.

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how about repel ? would it be okay to say I hope saying xyz will not repel the interviewer against me? –  amphibient Dec 4 '12 at 22:25
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@foampile: repel can't take two objects that way. You can say "I hope saying xyz will not repel the interviewer", or you can say "I hope saying xyz will not prejudice the interviewer against me". –  Marthaª Dec 4 '12 at 22:29
    
Martha is right. We don't use the expression repel against and repel really doesn't do a double object. Her prejudice is especially good for a formal setting like an interview. –  Ryan Dec 4 '12 at 22:36
    
Deter would probably be a better word than repel. Incidentally, even though I don't think turn off has a very strong sexual overtone (at least, not as much as turn on), I still think it reads awkward in the O.P.'s usages. "I hope saying xyz will not dissuade the interviewer" might work, but I think I like "I hope I didn't hurt my chances by saying xyz" even better. (Since we're worried about possible sexual overtones, I guess that rules out "I hope I won't strike out by saying xyz; I was hoping to hit a home run.") –  J.R. Dec 4 '12 at 22:53
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In the US, at least on the East Coast, the phrase turn off to mean to cause someone to lose interest, or more strongly, to repel, does not necessarily have a sexual connotation. Your uses strike me as perfectly harmless.

I don't anticipate using turn off causing hilarity in a formal setting, though it could leave room for hijinks in a lighter atmosphere.

The word does have a possible sexual use that is absent from put off. So if you are in doubt about how it will be received, that might be a better expression.

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+1 for the last paragraph. –  Marthaª Dec 4 '12 at 22:30
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Just don't say put out by mistake. BTW, I agree with your first two paragraphs as well. –  J.R. Dec 4 '12 at 22:47
    
Lolol. Too right. –  Ryan Dec 4 '12 at 22:47
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Also don't try to use its opposite, turn on. That IMO has an unambiguously sexual meaning that turn off doesn't. –  Lunivore Dec 4 '12 at 23:10
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The fact is that one of the meanings of turn off is sexual. The question is whether your audience will understand it as such.

Maybe they will, maybe they won't. That's the problem of ambiguity. You are not responsible for their misunderstanding, however you should be responsible if they don't understand what you say.

What you should do:

If the audience you're targeting isn't much important to you, keep it as is and let them laugh or get upset for whatever you said. After all, what they understand isn't what you said!

If the audience is important to you and you need them to know exactly what you're saying without leaving any room for fun, re-word your sentence!

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