This is from an article in The New York Times: Fox News v. Robert Mueller

If only we could dismiss Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingraham and the other well-paid propagandists at Fox News as though they were harmless drunks at the end of the bar, ticking off their conspiracy theories to anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, the guy sitting on the next stool is the president of the United States, and he’s all ears.

I've looked up several dictionaries for "tick off." Mainly there are three meanings: "infuriate", "reprimand", and "to mark some item on a list"

I am going with the last one, but having a hard time clearly understanding the context. I kind of have a guess though. Is it something like "enumerating/pointing out/laying out their conspiracy theories to someone"?

  • 1
    enumerating is an excellent synonym for ticking off in this context – although "ticking off" conveys reciting with emotion, whereas "enumerating" doesn't carry that.
    – J.R.
    Dec 13, 2017 at 10:37

2 Answers 2


A disgruntled spouse might "tick off" a list of grievances.

The verb tick off (to enumerate, as J.R. aptly suggests) was not a good choice here by the NYTimes author, as these talking heads tend to foam at the mouth when delivering their theories. Rabid dogs do not enumerate. Their attacks on Mueller are disgraceful. Perhaps the verb tick off struck the author as less hackneyed than "rattle off". Conspiracy theories are typically "rattled off", a dismissive verb that suggests a certain emptiness between the ears.

  • I wouldn't have been able to catch the nuance just looking up the dictionary. Thank you.
    – whitecap
    Dec 13, 2017 at 19:41

In this context, 'ticking off' simply refers to 'narrating'.

The writer of the article wishes to dismiss the conspiracy theories by Sean, Jeanine, Laura, and others as if they were just coming from harmless drunk people.

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