We meet twice a week to practice listening of English language news among English language enthusiasts in our community. We listen to mostly AP news broadcasted through FEN (Far East Net Work).

At yesterday’s meeting, the opinions of the circle members were divided as to whether the female announcer pronounced ‘off’ or ‘up’ in the part of “an attacker blew himself off / up” in the following news.

“A wave of attacks across Iraq has left 46 people dead today. Deadliest assault happened when an attacker blew himself (off / up?) inside a Shiite mosque during a funeral in a former insurgent stronghold south of Bagdad, killing at least 25 people and wounding 40.”

We replayed the tape to make sure of which side heard right, without a conclusion, which partly could be blamed to noises of the tape, not entirely to our ears.

We checked the meaning of the difference of "blow off" and "blow up" in each own dictionary to comfirm which one is more relevant to the context, but nobody seemed to come up with a very clear notion.

A bomber “blew oneself off” or “blew oneself up,” which is grammatically right? If both expressions should be viable, what is the difference between them?

  • 2
    Blow off vs blow up Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 22:40
  • For other sources of aural news - BBC is highly regarded, but British (vocab and pronunciation). NPR (National Public Radio) has high-quality news for American radio. CBC is similar for Canada. I believe all are available on-line in high quality formats. (You're really using tape?)
    – hunter2
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 8:52
  • @Hunter2. We at our ESS club members are all old timers. We are ‘still’ using a 10-minute cassette tape for group listening, because we feel it easier to repeatedly replay the narration than digital device. Unless young members join the group of 60s plus - which is unlikely, we have to put up with the use of cavemen’s technology. Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


To "blow oneself up" is grammatically correct in this context, and is definitely what the announcer should have said. "Blow up" idiomatically means "explode". (It's also used to mean "inflate" in the case of e.g. balloons.)

"Blow off" is even more colloquial; the usage I know means to ignore someone/something - to not attend a class, or show up to a meeting with someone, for example.


A bomber blows oneself up.

The form of blows/blew is used depending on which tense is used:

Blew himself up. Past tense

Blows himself up. Present tense.

Blow/blew "off", means to ignore or miss an appointment with someone.

  • Correction. It should be 'blew off / up." The question regards whether the announcer pronounced the attacker blew himself 'off,' or 'up.' Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 22:36
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    Between off and up, the proper usage would be "up". If the bomber blew himself off, that would mean that he dismissed/ignored his own plan to bomb. Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 23:05
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    It MIGHT be important to note that "blow/blew off" also has a slang meaning pertaining to oral sex. Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 23:09
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    TimLyminggton. True. 'Did a bomber blew' is ungrammatical. The answer I gt so far seems to suggest the bomber should have had blown himself 'up,' not 'off.' Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 23:32
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    @RenaissanceProgrammer That slang is just "blow". AFAIK, it's never used with off. I'd welcome an example. I would be talking about oral sex if I said "Blow me", but if I said "Blow me off", it would be the meaning discussed ('ignore me'/'ignore our plans'). (To go further, "blow me" could also be a pejorative, not directly sexual statement, like "fuck me" or "fuck you".)
    – hunter2
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 8:46

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