I never "got" the pun "Off the Baa" (the soccer game from "Shaun The Sheep"), until I tried a bit longer with Google Autocomplete and found the TV show "Off the Ball". This still seemed off (pun intended) to me, and then I remembered another pun (Warren mag story) "Off the Beaten Empath", but here I simply was familiar with the standing phrase "Off the beaten path".

Do I infer correctly that "Off the X" is a fancy way of saying "away from X, not in X's zone,..."? I still have a few problems with the ball, as it is a rather smallish object, compared to e.g. the path, the radar, or the shelf, which are "extensional". (Maybe, as the show is jocular, so is the phrase usage? I.e., they inserted something into the "Off the X" template which doesn't fit that well?)

2 Answers 2


"Off the ball" is from football ('soccer'), meaning to do something away from the actual play — e.g. a certain amount of jostling would be allowed between players if you're making a genuine effort to "play the ball".

If you just pushed over an opposition player in a different part of the pitch (or when play was stopped) it would be an "off the ball" incident and the player would get disciplined (if seen by the referee!).

Punning on that, you get some coverage of football (TV/podcasts/newspaper columns) that use the title 'Off the ball' (as the coverage is a discussion happening "away from play", e.g. a wash-up programme covering all the week's highlights)

It's a set phrase within the context of football though — you can't really extend from there and use "Off the X" generally, or I don't think people would get it (though there are similar but unrelated phrases like "Off the wall").


I'm no football fan, but I think Off the Baa could be a pun on off the bar (when the ball hits the bar at the top of the goal instead of going into the goal).

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