I found the phrase, “get (sb.) off the couch” in the headline of the article of Time.com (June 24) and also in a caption of YouTube. Each reads:

  • Jobless graduates: Six ways to get your kid off the couch, into a good job. – Time.com
  • At eDiets Live Jillian Michaels speaks to a woman on how to get off the couch. – YouTube.

From the context of the lines, I can easily guess it means to let someone rise up from the couch to start to do something or to work, but I don’t find “get off the couch” as an idiom in dictionaries at hand, neither in Free Merriam Webster nor Cambridge Dictionary online. Is this well-received idiom? Did it come from a title of song?


"Get off the couch" is a derisive command to stop whatever useless thing you were just doing and start doing what you should be doing. It is most often used literally:

Get off the couch! Go take out the trash!

Ugh, all you do is watch TV. Get off the couch...

A similar idiom is "get off the bench" which refers to sports athletes who spend most of the game sitting on the players' bench instead of on the field.

Get off the bench and into the game!

The implication in both idioms is that the first step toward being useful involves getting off your ass and getting on your feet — both of which are also idioms. The entire concept has many sayings that invoke the same feelings of (a) shame for being on the couch/bench/your ass and (b) pressure to perform.

  • One small quibble: couch potatoes are on the couch voluntarily; athletes are generally on the bench involuntarily - due to injury, misconduct, or simply not being as good as the starting lineup. Coaches - at any level higher than grammar school - usually don't have to yell at their players to get off the bench; pro athletes would rather be in the game. – MT_Head Jun 25 '11 at 5:35
  • @MT_Head: Agreed. They are similar but not the same. – MrHen Jun 25 '11 at 14:15

It's fairly common. As you suggested, the idea is that lazy people are on the couch watching TV instead of doing something productive. Related is the term "couch potato," meaning a lazy person. I don't think it comes from a song or anything like that.


It's not an idiomatic expression, but its derived from an expression, "Couch Potato".

A "couch potato" is a lazy person, who sits on the couch and watches tv, and presumeably eating, so the headlines "Six ways to get your kids off the couch, into a good job." basically means "Six ways to make your kids stop being lazy, and into a good job."

The other headlines, in eDiets, refers to the same expression(Couch potato) in a different way. A "couch potato" is implied to be 'fat', and so Jillian Michaels is talking to a woman on how to stop getting fat, or stop having activities that may induce her to be fat.

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