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I have read this sentence below several times, but can't be sure if the last clause is grammatical.

Our reactions to these foods are often instructive about our own prejudices on how to eat and are so much more of a joy when shared than, say, sold off the sandwich board of a third-wave cafe under a different name and for five times the price. (Source)

If I were to parse it, my understanding would be:

Our reactions to these foods are often instructive about our own prejudices on how to eat and are so much more of a joy when (these foods are) shared than, say, (these foods are) sold off the sandwich board of a third-wave cafe under a different name and for five times the price.

It seems to me either sold off, which means to get rid of or sell all of something, is the wrong phrasal verb here, or a preposition is missing after it. Shouldn't the sentence read:

Our reactions to these foods are often instructive about our own prejudices on how to eat and are so much more of a joy when shared than, say, sold from the sandwich board of a third-wave cafe under a different name and for five times the price.

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    I think "sold off (of) the sandwich board" and "sold from the sandwich board" mean the same thing; the sandwich was made on the board, and then was removed and sold. I don't think it is the phrasal sold off, rather off as a preposition. – user3169 May 20 '18 at 23:55
  • @user3169 Makes perfect sense. Thank you. Similar to "based off of" and "based on", maybe? – Eddie Kal May 20 '18 at 23:58
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Sandwich board:

two usually hinged boards designed for hanging from the shoulders with one board before and one behind and used especially for advertising or picketing

Check the sandwich board out front for daily food specials.

You generally see sandwich boards on restaurant patios. They'll typically take the form of a blackboard and list daily food specials.

So, in this case, sold off the sandwich board just means that you've ordered food from a selection that's listed on one.


I have no problem understanding sold off the sandwich board. The missing preposition is assumed, as in cases of other sentences with elided words. Perhaps in strictly formal writing it would be an issue, but here it fits with the stylistic sense of the rest of the article.

People can buy items off the lawn in yard sales, and they can order off the menu in restaurants. Restaurant owners who sell off a sandwich board do the same sort of thing (grammatically).

The missing preposition aside, which I don't think is a real problem, the only issue is that, at first glance, it can be taken in an ambiguous sense as there is another expression along the lines of I sold off my valuables. Ironically, in this case, "off" is added to the phrase when it would be clearer without it (simply I sold my valuables), but people say it anyway and it's understood.

So, in this case, there is possible confusion between one type of informal phrase and another. Interpreting it the "wrong" way would imply that the restaurant had a menu board that was, itself, sold. But I think that at worst it just slows down comprehension a little bit.


My own problem with the sentence is understanding why you can't share food that is sold off a sandwich board.

Looking at the source, it's talking about about "mixing and matching" food. But that, still, has nothing to do with sharing with other people. (You can share "mash-up" food and you can share sandwich-board food.).

Taking the source material into account, I think the sentence would have worked better if expressed as:

Our reactions to these foods are often instructive about our own prejudices on how to eat. Sharing your own mash-up food is so much more of a joy than ordering from a restaurant.

(I do have to say that the whole article is written in an unusually complicated manner.)

  • I appreciate this detailed answer. However, the tags, the title, and the content of my question make it pretty clear it is about preposition and thereby sentence grammaticality, which your answer omits to address. I never had any issue understanding the sentence in question. I was simply asking about a possible preposition omission, a question user3169 has answered in their comment. – Eddie Kal May 21 '18 at 14:48
  • @Deansue I have updated my answer to also specifically address the issue of the missing preposition. – Jason Bassford May 21 '18 at 15:17

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