The original sentence is:

The arrest of the men, who had not yet ordered and were waiting for a friend, kicked off a row over racial profiling.

I search for the "kick off a row", but it only shows "kick up a row", and they seem similar, are they?

  • The modern variant is the abbreviated 'He / she / they / the men ... kicked off'. Here, I'd say that 'kicked off' allows a non-sentient agent ('The arrest of the men'), whereas 'kicked up' doesn't. 'Kicked up' in the metaphorical sense is becoming dated. May 3, 2018 at 9:13
  • @EdwinAshworth Whilst personally, I understand exactly your point here - and I am also familiar with the subtlety of meaning, as between"kick-up" and "kick-off".But I rather doubt the OP, who I suspect is a non-native speaker, does. If I might make this as a general criticism, I often find the value of your well-informed comments is lost in an excessive concern for brevity.
    – WS2
    May 3, 2018 at 9:27
  • @WS2 ELU's target audience is not non-native speakers fairly unfamiliar with the language, but linguists etc. And the overall aim is to build up a repository of sound English usage at a non-basic level: not primarily to answer any question that appears, at a level a learner will understand. There are many websites devoted to that equally valid aim. May 3, 2018 at 9:38

3 Answers 3


The phrasal verb to kick up merely speaks about to "make" (a row/ noisy argument), whereas kick off implies "starting" it.

The set phrase is to kick up a row, not off.

kick up a row (ODOL)

1.1 Make a vigorous protest.
‘I was quite comfortable—I kicked up a row out of sheer boredom’

However, kick off is another set phrase that means to "start" (something).

kick off (ODOL)

1.2 informal Begin or cause something to begin.
‘the festival kicks off on Monday’

It appears that the writer (cleverly if intentionally) used the two phrasal verbs together.

Incidentally, in BrE, kick off (ibid.) itself means to start a fight:

2 British informal Become very angry; suddenly start an argument or fight.
‘I don't want her kicking off at me again’

In this case, to kick off a row would be tautology.

  • the word row is needed becuase of the "about racial profiling" you couldn't say "it kicked off about racial profiling" when kicked-off is used by itself it has to be the end of the sentence (or maybe clause).
    – WendyG
    May 3, 2018 at 9:22
  • As @Edwin Ashworth indicates "kick-off" nowadays allows for a "non-sentient agent", e.g. If it kicks-off in here when they've had a few drinks we will need more security guys.
    – WS2
    May 3, 2018 at 9:31

The phrase in this sentence is "kick-off" it may be british english. It has come to mean start, I guess it comes from soccer where the match is started by somebody kicking the ball (hence that being the first definition). So it could be kick off in this case it started an argument about racial profiling.

it can even be shortened to "and then it all kicked off".

kick-off NOUN 1

The start or resumption of a football match, in which a player kicks the ball from the centre spot.

‘three minutes before kick-off’

1.1 informal The start of an event or activity. ‘the kick-off of the parade’


  • A reference with a verb rather than a noun would be preferable.
    – AndyT
    May 3, 2018 at 11:04
  • @AndyT it might be, but I can't find a definition as it is casual language which doesn't appear to have made it to dictionaries. It is the same as the start/started pair. I could edit the online dictionary and then quote myself back If you would prefer
    – WendyG
    May 3, 2018 at 11:21
  • 1
    dictionary.com/browse/kick?s=t definition 28 a and c
    – AndyT
    May 3, 2018 at 12:05

In this context, they are the same thing. I've not ever heard "kick off a row" or similar - as opposed to "kick up".

I think, as your search shows, it's either much less common, or perhaps it's someone conflating the "kick up" usage with the phrase "kicking off".

To "kick off" or "kicking off" can be used on its own, in this sense to mean getting belligerent, often with violence involved.

  • I think it is british english, as the sentence makes perfect sense to me
    – WendyG
    May 3, 2018 at 9:06
  • Do you not just say "kick off" though? I have to say, with "kicking up" the ending that comes most readily to my mind is "a stink". I'm Australian though, and we don't really use "row" over here much. May 3, 2018 at 9:23
  • This does not appear to be correct. May 3, 2018 at 9:23
  • How is it incorrect? May 3, 2018 at 9:24
  • @rickibarnes your right it is kick up a stink isn't it. You could just say "Kick off" if they didn't want to explain why it caused problems you need a linking section between kick off and "about racial profiling"
    – WendyG
    May 3, 2018 at 9:27

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