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This is part of a CNN news article I need to translate. I am not quite sure about what situation the phrase describes. Here is the part the expression comes from: "When did the light switch go off for you to say, oh, my goodness, things have really drastically changed and I'm in trouble if I don't change with them?"

  • We need more context than that. – Hot Licks Sep 24 '16 at 2:50
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    Without more context it's difficult to be sure but it looks to me as though the writer has had two idioms in mind and managed to conflate them. I think they might have been trying to choose between "the light (switch) go on" and "the alarm bell go off" both of which are metaphors for a sudden realisation or revalation. Then again I'm British and it might be an American idiom. – BoldBen Sep 24 '16 at 3:39
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You are reading a transcript of an interview, not an article, and as such the English may not be as polished as a written and edited article. Cristina Alesci (the interviewer) is referring to a light bulb moment, in which an idea or realization is formed, represented in cartoons by a light bulb over the person's head being switched on.

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  • thank you for your answer!! It is very helpful. But I still wonder why she said "off" instead of "on". – Kris Yoon Sep 24 '16 at 4:05
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    As the comment above from@BoldBen, she is conflating something 'going off' (as an alarm) with something being 'switched on' (as a light switch). It's not perfect, but her meaning is clear enough. – Spehro Pefhany Sep 24 '16 at 4:09
  • @SpehroPefhany don't we all do that from time to time? I know I do! – BoldBen Sep 24 '16 at 6:56

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