2

What "Right off" means in this sentence?

As far as I was concerned, the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky. Then the sky could be as miserable as I was.

2

In the cited context, right is effectively an optional intensifier (equivalent to completely, utterly, etc.).

It's equally optional in a context like Come here right now!, where including the intensifier emphasises the fact that you definitely mean now, not "in a few minutes". But note that with Come here right away! you can't just "delete" the single word intensifier - you'd also have to discard away.

The specific preposition off is preferred here because it best suits the context of something being (re)moved (by melting) so it's off = away from, no longer present where it was (the "blue" was "in" the sky; now it's gone somewhere else).


Personally, I don't think much of this particular metaphoric usage. It seems to me the writer (US poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz) is trying too hard to be "original" in his choice of metaphor, but it doesn't really work for me because figuratively speaking the primary association of blue is sad. Looked at from that perspective, the sky would better reflect the writer's misery if it just stayed blue. So to me it's perfectly good English, but poor style. That's just my "Lit Crit" opinion, though.

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-3

'Right off' means immediately or without delay. The expression 'the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky' is not an idiomatic English expression, but it appears to mean that the writer would have preferred the clear blue sky to be changed to grey and cloudy to match his/her miserable mood.

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  • I'll wipe that smile right off your face! Perfectly idiomatic, and there's no reason to suppose it doesn't suit OP's somewhat more metaphoric / poetic context. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 19 '18 at 16:29
  • It's a very common expression. It also doesn't mean without delay. It means completely off. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 19 '18 at 16:58
  • @FumbleFingers I agree that 'I'll wipe that smile right off your face!' is idiomatic. That entire sentence is commonly used by English speakers. However, 'the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky' is not idiomatic. If you have ever seen this expression used elsewhere, please provide a link and I will retract that statement. The phrase 'right off' is also a common idiomatic phrase. I did not say there was anything wrong with the OP using 'right off' in a sentence a novel way; I simply pointed out that the clause that was created is not an idiomatic expression. – James Aug 19 '18 at 17:03
  • @ Jason Bassford I assume you mean 'right off' is a common expression, in which case I agree with you, but 'the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky' is not an idiomatic expression. I can understand why you would say that 'right off' in this passage means 'completely off'. I re-checked my definition using several dictionaries, all of them agree that 'right off' means 'immediately' or 'without delay'. – James Aug 19 '18 at 17:17
  • I think we're applying different definitions of "not an idiomatic expression" here. OP's actual example is at the very least "unusual", simply because of the semantics (even though all the syntactic components are in common use). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 21 '18 at 12:46

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