After I made my posts on the Casebook Forum on this subject in December 2016, many people who, for reasons of their own, would have loved to have proved me wrong attempted to use the available digital databases to find examples of 'one off' in the nineteenth century but failed. A salutary lesson occurred on JTR Forums where someone thought they had found an example of 'one off' meaning unique – in this case a unique person – from 1882. Unfortunately, he was deceived by the Google Book snippet view which sometimes shows a volume date as the first in the series rather than the relevant volume from which the text has come. The 'one off' reference he had found was, in fact, from a 1975 volume of the British Bee Journal. The truth is that it would have been literally impossible for a person to have been described as a 'one off' in 1882. This is a metaphorical use of the expression and it didn't occur to anyone to use 'one off' in such a way until about the second half of the twentieth century.
Another attempt to prove me wrong has been made by arguing that Garscadden was using 'one off' in 1903 and that this somehow means it could have been used by Maybrick in 1888.
One thing that is important to stress is that the expressions 'one off standpoint', 'one off way' and 'one off pattern', as used in the early twentieth century by Garscadden, are not equivalent in any respect with 'one off instance' because none of them are at all metaphorical in their meaning. They were not, in other words, comparing a person or event to a unique product which is what we are doing today, in effect, when we refer to something or someone as a 'one off'. You can't replace 'one off instance' with 'one off standpoint' in any use of the expression 'one off instance' that you care to choose because the word 'standpoint' does not qualify (or expand) the meaning of 'one off' in the way that the word 'instance' does. You can't, in other words say, 'I hit my wife, but it was a one off standpoint' because that makes no sense. Garscadden was only speaking of viewing a production method from the standpoint of making something as a one off, or, using Garscadden's expression, in a one off way. Obviously, to produce a single item involved a rather different design and manufacturing process than producing multiple items. Garscadden's comment was, in other words, all about pattern making in respect of a manufactured product. He wasn't saying that he, or anyone else, was behaving in a 'one off way' or in a 'one off standpoint', or that such expressions could relate to anything other than a method of production, or a method of casting a metal item, so there is, in that expression, no actual connection with modern expressions such as 'one off instance' or 'one off occasion' or 'one off event'.
I'm aware that there are some people who unaccountably seem to think that 'one off standpoint' is basically the same as 'one off instance' so that, just as Garscadden could write 'one off standpoint' in 1903, the author of the Diary could have referred to a 'one off instance' in 1888. If anyone still thinks that now, they haven't read the main article properly or, if they have, they haven't understood it. Other than in terms of origin and evolution of expression, there is no more connection between 'one off standpoint' and 'one off instance' (as used in the Diary) than there is between a 'one off' (job, item, person or event) and the types of expressions I referred to in the main article such as 'one off the coast', 'one off the top' and 'one off the over'. I'm sure that no-one would disagree that just because 'one' is followed by 'off' in those expressions, it doesn't mean they are referring to what we know today as a 'one off'. Hence, if Garscadden had referred in 1903 to an 'instance of a one off' when writing about a method of production in respect of pattern making, or even a 'one off instance', it would have had no more connection to the 'one off instance' of the Diary than the expression 'one off the top' does to a 'one off job'. The first two words are, of course, exactly the same but the meaning is very different.
In a similar vein, the 1884 appearance in a railway journal of the words 'one' and 'off' together to form 'one off' (as with 'two off'), where 'one off' was referring to a single item, has absolutely no connection to the later expression 'one off job', or to the even later expression 'one off instance', other than the fact that it was the starting point for the evolution of those expressions. Because, of course, they mean very different things. That's why Shirley Harrison's reliance on an 1860 or 1864 (or whatever year she wants to pluck from the air) reference to 'one off' in a building document was always so misguided, even if it seemed to impress Feldman and almost everyone else. If it meant no more than a single item off of a stocklist then it clearly didn't bear the meaning of 'one off' as we know it today and it equally didn't bear the meaning of 'one off' as it is used in the Diary.
And I repeat that 'one off standpoint', as written by Garscadden, also didn't bear the meaning of 'one off instance' as we know it today and as it was used in the Diary.
Now I don't think that Garscadden in 1903 would ever have used the expression 'one off instance' to refer to a method of production because it would have been a bit strange but one could conceive of him writing about 'an example of a one off', or 'a one off example', to refer to the way a single item was made. Again, that would have been something totally different from what would be meant today if we were to (awkardly) refer to Maybrick hitting his wife as 'a one off example' because Garscadden in 1903 and 1904 could never have conceived that 'one off' could be applied to the striking of a person or to anything other than a production of a single item.
That's why it's a complete mistake to think that one can simply take Garscadden's 'one off standpoint', bring it forward by 15 years to 1888 (because, after all, why not?) and then completely change its meaning to think that James Maybrick, or anyone else writing in 1888, could have thought about anything other than some form of manufactured item or design as relating to 'one off'. No one in the world at that time drew the analogy between such an item and an actual event outside of manufacturing. It wasn't a thought that occurred to anyone (and 'one off' was only ever known in the early days to pattern makers etc. anyway) which is why no-one ever used the expression 'one off instance' or anything similar during the nineteenth century.
We should also not forget that Garscadden appears to have used 'one off' more as an expression of quantity than to mean a unique item, hence his use in the same series of articles of the expression 'two off'. While his articles do seem to reflect that the expression was in a state of transition (from Phase 1 to Phase 2), he was basically just using 'one off' to convey the meaning of 'once created' so that the expression was purely functional rather than being used to convey the meaning of something that was special or unique, which didn't really happen until the use of the expression 'one off job'. But, of course, even then, it was limited to a physical item (or pattern etc.) that literally existed, or to an actual manufacturing process, and had no metaphorical connotations. This is very important because while 'one off job' certainly does convey the meaning of uniqueness and is, thus, as mentioned at the start, the sense in which it is used in the Diary, making it much closer to 'one off instance' than Garscadden's 'one off standpoint', it is still not the same as 'one off instance' because of the complete absence of a metaphorical meaning; 'one off job' does no more than refer to a unique manufactured item or manufacturing process which physically exists. The expression 'one off instance' is, therefore, two steps divorced from Garscadden's 'one off standpoint'.
You just cannot, therefore, say, 'oh well, Garscadden in 1903 with his 'one off standpoint'; that's good enough to show that the Diary could be genuine'. Apart from being pure speculation with no evidence in support for the use of 'one off' in the nineteenth century, it's nothing more than lazy thinking. It can only be said by someone who just doesn't understand Garscadden's article in any way nor how language develops and evolves. It can also only be said by someone who, for reasons of their own, so desperately wants to believe that the Diary was written in the nineteenth century that they don't need or care about evidence but wish to give the Diary every possible benefit of the doubt, even though, in this respect, there is literally no doubt available to give it! Perhaps they have become so overconfident in the Diary, due to the fact that it has overcome other linguistic challenges that might otherwise have killed it off, that they now feel it will overcome everything and there is no need for a pesky thing like evidence; it doesn't matter to them that there is not a single known recorded example of 'one off' to mean unique from the nineteenth century because they have blind faith in the Diary and are not prepared to consider the facts in any kind of dispassionate way. So they think 'one off' to mean unique must have existed in spoken form, and was only ever written down during the nineteenth century by one person claiming to be Jack the Ripper, even though there is not one single bit of evidence or even reason to think that this was the case in reality.
Another common mistake is to think that the number of words used in the expression is somehow relevant to the meaning. A 'one off standpoint' may be regarded as three words (or two if one-off is a single hyphenated word) and because 'one off instance' is also three words it's somehow believed that this is basically the same thing. But it's not. Had the Diary author written: 'I hit my wife but it was a one off' that sentence would have borne exactly the same meaning as if 'one off instance' had been used. Both are metaphorical Phase 3 meanings and it's not the inclusion of the third word, 'instance', that is important here but the way that 'one off' is being used to mean something unique and, by implication, is being compared to a individually produced or manufactured item.
Let me try to provide a hypothetical example which should convey more clearly what I'm saying about Garscadden's 'one off standpoint'. The DeLorean car with its gull wing doors and unusual design was certainly a unique car in the early 1980s. Let's imagine that the expression 'one off' never existed. Now, what if, during the twenty-first century, the word 'DeLorean' (meaning the car, rather than the person John DeLorean) came to be associated with the concept of uniqueness so that people started to say 'Oh this guy's a real DeLorean' or 'I hit my wife, but it was a DeLorean instance'. In the world we live in now, that would be very odd if I ever used it that way in a sentence, even if you might be able to work out what I meant by it, but in our hypothetical world it has become a part of the English language and can be found in dictionaries. Look up 'Delorean' in the hypothetical OED and you find 'unique'. Now, like I've said, in our hypothetical world, this expression only existed in the twenty-first century, since the year 2000. But it's possible that within car manufacturing journals, during the 1980s and 1990s, someone writing about car manufacturing might have written of the need to consider the process of making a car 'from a DeLorean standpoint'. That expression would have no possible relationship with the new meaning of 'DeLorean' to mean a unique person or event (and especially to the expression 'a DeLorean instance') because our imaginary author in the car journal was writing about an actual (unique) DeLorean rather than a metaphorical one.
Let me provide another example. What if the Diary author, having complained about his wife sleeping with her lover, called her 'a slag'? The word 'slag' certainly existed in 1888 to mean refuse matter separated from a metal in the smelting process. Over time, this word was used metaphorically, first to describe a worthless person, coward or petty criminal and then subsequently to describe a woman of supposedly loose morals. So there are three phases of meaning there. Phase 1 being the actual meaning of 'slag' to represent a physical piece of (worthless) matter, Phase 2 being someone compared to that piece of worthless matter and Phase 3 (originating in the UK) where specifically a woman is (of course unfairly!) compared to that piece of worthless matter due to her alleged sexual behaviour. Samuel Johnson's 1827 dictionary only gives a literal Phase 1 meaning, as does Murray's 1919 dictionary. Interestingly, the Oxford English Dictionary records a Phase 2 meaning from 1788 whereby a 'Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue' published in that year defined 'a slag' as, 'a slack minded fellow, one not ready to resent an affront', but it would seem that this meaning was lost to the English language and it wasn't until the twentieth century that it is recorded again to apply to a person. The OED gives 1934 as its first example of a man being referred to as a slag in the twentieth century but it is not until 1958 that it records the first example of a woman being called this due to her sexual morals.
The point I'm making here is that, of course, any diary author or writer in 1888 could have written the word 'slag' into a diary. It was a word that existed and was in the dictionary and had a specific literal meaning about refuse material from smelting. And, hey, anyone with some imagination could have compared his cheating, unfaithful wife to some refuse material and called her 'a slag'. But in reality this would not have happened. It's not how language works. At best, he would have said that she was 'like slag' but even that would have been very odd and would have required explanation (which wouldn't really have been possible to have been given at that time bearing in mind that there is no obvious sexual connotation involved in refuse material from smelting, and 'slag' didn't bear have any sexual connotation until after it had evolved to mean a worthless person first). The fact of the matter is that if a disputed historical document purporting to be from the nineteenth century appears in which a woman is described as 'a slag' we can be sure that it's a fake. If the Diary author had called his wife a slag it would have proved that the Diary is a fake. No doubt some die-hard Diary Defender would have pointed to the 1788 'Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue' and said it was only one step away from that to calling a woman a slag, or speculated that people could have called each other slags in the nineteenth century without it being recorded in writing, but such arguments would have been hopeless. Maybrick could no more have called his wife 'a slag' in 1888 than he could have described his attack on her as a 'one off instance'.
If you are reading this and still can't understand what I'm saying then I'm not sure I can help you further. If you do understand it, however, then you must now realize that the Diary cannot be genuine.
The 1929 expression 'one off character' is superficially closer to the Phase 3 meaning than 'one off standpoint' and, if it had been used in the sense of describing a person as a 'one off character', or saying (rather awkwardly and not normally) that a person's behaviour was 'of a one off character', then this would have been a metaphorical usage. But it wasn't being used in this way in 1929 because it was being said that some work was 'of a one off character' showing that the expression here was a literal one, applying to a manufactured product. There was no imagery or analogy being used, either expressly or implicitly. It's the same thing as referring to some work to create a individual product as a 'one off job'. It's a pure Phase 2 usage, not Phase 3.
What I am saying is that it's not the words themselves that make 'one off instance' different from 'one off job' or 'one off pattern' but the way those words are used to mean something that was implicitly being compared to a unique product or prototype while not actually being a product or prototype. For Maybrick to have written the words 'one off instance' in his Diary, in the context in which it was used, he would firstly have had to have appreciated that there was something special about a product for which only one was made (as opposed to a product for which a few, or a thousand, were made) and then, secondly, he would have had to have known that a possible description for such a unique product was 'one off' and then, thirdly, he would have had to have had the somewhat poetic thought that the way he hit his wife could be compared to a unique product because, just like the way that product would never be made again, he would never hit his wife again.
That kind of thought process could not have occurred to Maybrick in October 1888. It's not just that the expression 'one off' didn't even mean a unique product in 1888 within the English language (or, at least, there is zero evidence that it did) but that this thought process was not one that can possibly be attributed to any particular individual because it's something that evolved slowly over time within the language during the twentieth century until people were very familiar with the concept of a one off product or job and were thus easily able to be understood by others when they referred to a person or event, occasion or instance as a 'one off' to mean someone or something that would never be repeated. We have seen that, because this evolution did not occur in the English language until around or after the Second World War, there is just no way that James Maybrick in 1888 would, or could, ever have thought of himself hitting his wife as a 'one off instance'. It's simply impossible. Anyone who thinks it is possible is literally denying reality because they do not want to let go of the possibility of the Diary being real. But they must now do this.
First published as part of "One Off Article": 28 July 2019
Re-published as a separate article: 30 January 2024