I am not a native speaker so never had a chance to meet the term in the wild, and only seen it in Harry Potter series mostly used by Ron Weasley.

My somewhat corrupted mind assumed it being a shortened version of "bugger off" but recently I've found sources claiming it is somewhat originating from "get off". It sounds more plausible but is there a linguistic rule that describes such a transformation?

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    It comes from dialects which don't enunciate the T at the end of get. "Get off" becomes "Ge off" becomes "Gerroff" because the end of "Ge" doesn't flow into the start of "off" particular well.
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 11:37
  • 2
    Other consonants can also be "reduced" to /r/ in sloppy (or stereotypically, drunken) speech. For example, Yarroo! instead of Yahoo! (which sounds a little "dated" to me, since I first encountered that one in the written form in Billy Bunter children's stories many decades ago). Also quite common is Sharrup! (= Shut up!, Be quiet), with various spellings. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 17:36
  • youtube.com/watch?v=pieK7b4KLL4 ;) Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 11:01
  • @FumbleFingers interesting, I've seen it is written as "Shaddup". From this answer, it seems that "Shaddup" is American and "Sharrup" is British. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 11:36
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    @Col. Shrapnel: That rings true. I'd say that on average, AmE speakers are more likely than Brits to "reduce" some relatively "awkward" consonant sequence to /d/. For example, it's not that uncommon to hear Whaddup? in some AmE contexts (esp., from AAVE speakers), but I think that version is far less common in the UK (though obviously most people reduce it to Whassup? on both sides of the pond). Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


but recently I've found sources claiming it is somewhat originating from "get off".

This is true, although it is not "somewhat", it is "entirely". https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gerroff#English and https://www.hp-lexicon.org/thing/geroff/

It is can be written as "Gerroff" as the pronunciation may include a slight "r" sound in the first part and a more noticeable one in the second part - "Ger'roff" - /gɛ(r)rof/

Gerroff is a phonetic spelling of "get off" when spoken quickly and/or in an annoyed manner.

Is there a linguistic rule that describes such a transformation?

"phonetic spelling".

  • 4
    Good point. There's no actual word "gerroff". If you ask anyone who just said "gerroff" to write down what they just said, they'd write down "get off". (Assuming they didn't just look at you weirdly anyway.) Rowling used it to indicate the way that some of her characters talked.
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 11:58
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    @AndyT thank you both, "there is no actual word" explains it perfectly. Looks like similar to the case when "the" is spelled as "da" Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 12:44
  • This is true, although it is not "somewhat", it is "entirely". I thought you were saying the opposite of what you meant: This is entirely true, not just "somewhat" true.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 21:42
  • The referent of "it" is "the word"
    – Greybeard
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 22:30
  • 1
    I was just suggesting that instead of using a sentence that needs to be read three times before you can work out what it means, you might want to use simpler language.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 2:46

In some accents of British English, a word-final /t/ sound after a short vowel can be pronounced as something that sounds like an /r/ sound when the following word starts with a vowel. This is discussed on John Wells's phonetic blog; I quoted the relevant portions in a previous answer.

"Geroff" is a respelling of the pronunciation of "get off" in such an accent. (I don't know whether the specific form "geroff" might have spread to other speakers who don't have this as a usual feature of their accent.)

The British English "t-to-r" sound change is somewhat similar to the American English phenomenon of "flapped" or "tapped" /t/, but also different in several ways. Wells suggests that "t-to-r" developed by way of /t/ leniting in this position to a voiced flap [ɾ], which was then perceived as /r/, causing it to to be subsequently replaced for some speakers with the now more common [ɹ] allophone of /r/ (just as in words like "very", the [ɾ] allophone of /r/ seems to have become less frequent compared to the [ɹ] allophone).

American English speakers perceive a "flapped/tapped" /t/ as /d/, never (to my knowledge) as /r/. And American English speakers seem to use flap /t/ in more positions: inside of words, and after long vowels/diphthongs. So an American would be more likely to respell "Get off" as "Ged(d)off". Also, from the comments section of the John Wells blog post, it sounds like some British English speakers might have both a t-to-r rule and a separate flapping rule.

  • Thank you, your answer resolved my last confusion. Looks like I am more familiar with American English and can recognize the rule with [d] but [r] turned to be a riddle for me. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 11:45
  • ouch. if only I searched for the double-r version I wouldn't have to ask as your other answer explains it already Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 11:54
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    I think the British vs. American thing is that, as far as I know, /r/ is not realised as [ɾ] in any widespread American accent, so if an [ɾ] occurs, it can only be interpreted as a t or d, so Americans will only hear it that way (in English at least - Spanish speakers will know [ɾ] as /r/). Although British accents using [ɾ] for intervocalic /r/ are rarer than they used to be, that interpretation is still possible, so there is an overlap between speakers who flap /t/ to [ɾ], and speakers who use [ɾ] for /r/. Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 2:55
  • This linguist's surname is Wells. Otherwise, good explanation.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 18:23

From what I know and grew up with, "Gerroff" always meant get off and tended to be from the East Midlands dialect. And we used it sober and drunk, because the further north in England you go the dialect is presumed to get lazier according to some people! For example, in Yorkshire "go to the pub" ends up being shortened to "t' pub".

  • It's more a kind of softened "tət pub" with the last 't' being really little more than a glottal stop, but it's not as easy to spell as it is for a Yorkshireman to say ;-) [Native Yorkshireman here]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 12:42

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