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A: So how is your new roommate?
B: She really turns me off.
A: What happened?
B: She's always making loud noises at midnight.

This is conversation from one of my English book. I found the meaning of "turn me off" is If something or someone turns you off, you do not find them sexually attractive or they stop you feeling sexually excited.

My question is can I use this in daily life as like my book examples?

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  • Well, if it is possible to avoid a sexual undertone, going on to mention loud noises in the middle of the night definitely is not the way to do it!
    – TypeIA
    Apr 5 at 5:00
  • What is the English book's title and author please. Remember to cite your sources.
    – James K
    Apr 5 at 18:51
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Stupid questions turn me off. Marmite plus peanut butter absolutely turns me off. I saw a nice car, but the price tag turned me off. Puking babies turn me off. Any sexual meaning is the exception.

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  • Clearly that's true when talking about inanimate objects in a clearly non-sexual context. (I'm sure someone somewhere has a marmite fetish but as you say that'll be the exception.) But... talking about a person? Who makes noises at night? I'm not so convinced!
    – TypeIA
    Apr 5 at 10:27
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The example in the book clearly suggests a sexual meaning, or at least a sexual double-entendre.

The conversation is very odd, and a little creepy. Even if the second speaker didn't intend a sexual meaning, that could be understood. And so we are left with the uncomfortable implication that the second speaker expected to be (sexually) turned on by their roommate... Awkward!

You should usually look for an alternative phrase, especially if a sexual meaning could be inferred.

She annoys me. She makes loud noises in the middle of the night.

or if you want something much stronger

She disgusts me. She picks her nose and wipes the bogies on the wall.

This is quite separate from the "unplug" sense of "turn of" which can't be applied to a person.

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"Turn me off" CAN me "does not appeal to me sexually". But it can also mean "does not appeal to me" in some other way. It's quite routine to say, "Microwaving hot dogs really turns me off", "Movies that are trying to push a political view really turn me off", "People who smoke really turn me off", etc.

As perhaps you can see, sexual interest fits in with these kind of things. "Pistachio ice creams turns me off", that is, I don't like pistachio ice cream, and "Heavy eye shadow turns me off", that is, I don't like it when girls wear heavy eye shadow, are both statements of personal opinion and preference.

The phrase is normally used to express personal taste and annoyance. You wouldn't say, "Failing to consider structural load really turns me off", except as a joke, because that's a matter that's more factual than personal taste. And you wouldn't say, "Genocide really turns me off", again, except as a (dark) joke, because that's an issue that goes way beyond taste and annoyance.

Oh, and "turns off" also has a literal meaning, referring to deactivating an electrical or mechanical device. So for example a computer might display a message, "Turn me off when the backup is complete".

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