I heard in a movie description this line:

She spots the compass in the dirt, then picks it up and blows it off.

This line describes the protagonist picks up her compass off the ground and blows the dust off of it. I fount that expression odd, because to me "blow something off" would mean "to blow that thing off": for example, The wind blow off the papers. If you "blow the table off," does it mean you "blow to dust off the table"?

Or did I hear it wrong? Is the verb used here not blow? I am putting the audio clip here (uploaded to an audio sharing site Clyp) for reference.

1 Answer 1


In context it sounds like this means to blow dust or dirt off of it, but that is not how the phrase is usually used.

"Blow it off" is an informal idiom meaning to not do something you are supposed to do or are expected to do. Like, "I blew my homework off" means I didn't do my homework.

When used literally, "blow off" means to be carried away by the wind or gusts of air. Like, "the papers blew off the desk", or in an extreme case, "the hurricane was so strong that the roof blew off the house".

If you want to say that you blew the dust off something, you say "blew the dust off".

  • I see an interesting usage in the papers blew off the desk, where papers is the subject of the verb blow. I thought only the wind or a person could blow.
    – dan
    Apr 16, 2018 at 12:05
  • @dan Interesting point. One could argue that we should say, "The wind blew the papers off the desk" or at least "The papers were blown off the desk." But in practice people say "The papers blew off the desk" all the time.
    – Jay
    Apr 19, 2018 at 22:54
  • Good to know it! Thanks! Does the wind blew the papers off the desk. Or the papers were blown off the desk. is also correct or idiomatic?
    – dan
    Apr 20, 2018 at 0:51
  • @dan Yes. Exactly.
    – Jay
    Apr 21, 2018 at 4:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .