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I keep wanting to use “offing” in the sense of “conspicuous and deliberate avoidance/exclusion,” which I finally figured out I inferred from this usage in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

“Remember what Muriel said?” he asked eventually.

“Who?”

“You know,” he hesitated: He did not want to say Ron’s name. “Ginny’s great-aunt. At the wedding. The one who said you had skinny ankles.”

“Oh,” said Hermione. It was a sticky moment: Harry knew that she had sensed Ron’s name in the offing.

In looking it up (as I’d forgotten where I got it) I was surprised to learn “in the offing” usually means “anticipated” (from the nautical definition of “offing”). This doesn’t seem right in context so I assume the exact phrase match is a coincidence, but I’m having trouble finding any other good references of even “offing” having the sense I inferred. Maybe it’s meant in a Mafia-like “killing” sense?

Is this a common enough usage, maybe in the UK (I’m in the US)? Or is Rowling just being creative? Or did I completely misunderstand the HP usage?

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    It sounds to me as if Hermione was anticipating the mention of Ron´s name. synonyms include:on the way, coming (soon), (close) at hand, near, imminent, in prospect, on the horizon, in the wings, just around the corner, in the air, in the wind, brewing, upcoming, forthcoming Feb 18, 2017 at 21:57
  • Sometimes "in the offing" seems to be used in a sense meaning "as a side-effect of the events discussed", or something of that ilk. It's an idiom with several relatively separate (and vague) definitions, not to mention the use of "off" and "offing" in the sense of murdering.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:33
  • Just to be clear, every comment and answer so far are saying no, that is not how 'in the offing' works at all.
    – Mitch
    Feb 19, 2017 at 0:30

2 Answers 2

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"Harry knew that she had sensed Ron’s name in the offing" means, literally, that she had sensed Ron's name about to be said. But from the context we should take this to mean that Ron's name was implied.

I'm not sure how you want to use "offing" (based on your misunderstanding), so I can't answer that part of your question yet.

Edit:

I think I want to use “offing” as a synonym for “deliberate omission”, like, “The boss praised almost everyone on the team individually – but everyone awkwardly noticed John’s name in the offing.”

This is too much of a leap and ends up being confusing. You could say:

The boss praised the team as a whole, and almost member of the team by name -- but everyone awkwardly noticed that John's name was conspicuously absent from the list.

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  • Perhaps "Harry knew that she had sensed he had been devising a work-around to avoid mentioning Ron". Feb 18, 2017 at 22:45
  • I wouldn’t have thought Hermione had any reason to anticipate Ron’s name being said, as she didn’t know who Muriel was and couldn’t have foreseen the reference Harry would make. It implies she put 2+2 together after his reference. But that could just be a slight logical error, and is probably more plausible than an entirely different meaning of a common idiom. I think I want to use “offing” as a synonym for “deliberate omission”, like, “The boss praised almost everyone on the team individually – but everyone awkwardly noticed John’s name in the offing.”
    – Luke M
    Feb 18, 2017 at 23:19
  • @LukeM - I'm interested to see if there is a different answer from a UK English speaker. Feb 19, 2017 at 2:07
  • @aparente001 - Thank you, I am too, but it seems clear from this thread that I came across an idiom that was new to me and just inferred the wrong meaning from its context!
    – Luke M
    Feb 20, 2017 at 15:22
  • @LukeM - That can happen, especially with the Atlantic Ocean in between author and reader. Feb 20, 2017 at 15:26
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It was pretty obvious that Harry wanted to save his friend Hermione´s feelings by avoiding all mention of Ron, so he devised a way to recall Muriel to mind by working around it. He only referred to the Weasley wedding, and called her Ginny´s great-aunt. Nevertheless, she could feel the mention of Ron´s name "in the offing", so to speak, or as the synonyms indicate:

in the air, (close) at hand, near, imminent, in prospect, on the horizon, in the wings, just around the corner, in the wind, brewing, upcoming, forthcoming, etc.

For your purposes (according to your comments),

I think I want to use “offing” as a synonym for “deliberate omission”, like, “The boss praised almost everyone on the team individually – but everyone awkwardly noticed John’s name in the offing.

"conspicuous by its absence" would work better.

“The boss praised almost everyone on the team individually – but everyone awkwardly noticed John’s name was conspicuous by its absence.”

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