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  1. #1
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    Default the twelve days of Christmas

    hello,

    in the lyric of "the twelve days of CHristmas" one sentence goes like this " ten lords a-leaping"

    my questions are :
    1. what does the sentence mean? how do you phrase it?

    2. what does "a" in a-leaping" mean? does it mean anything???

    Thanks.

    paula

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    Not really- you could just say 'seven lords leaping'.

  3. #3
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: the twelve days of Christmas

    Quote Originally Posted by guest
    hello,

    in the lyric of "the twelve days of CHristmas" one sentence goes like this " ten lords a-leaping"

    my questions are :
    1. what does the sentence mean? how do you phrase it?

    2. what does "a" in a-leaping" mean? does it mean anything???

    Thanks.

    paula
    This use of the prefix a- is a remnant of early English. It can be used to add a sense of "in the state of" to other words. Some uses remain "asleep", "aloud", etc.

    Here is an entry from Webster's Third:

    Main Entry:1a-
    Pronunciation:*
    Function:prefix
    Etymology:Middle English, from Old English a-, an, on

    1 : on : in : at *abed* *afoot* *asunder* sometimes used in dialect speech in locutions not found in standard *he did it a-purpose*
    2 obsolete : at (such) a time *a-nights*
    3 : in (such) a state or condition *afire* *asleep* often used with with *acrawl with ants*
    4 : in (such) a manner *aloud*
    5 : in the act of : in the process of *daddy's gone a-hunting* *months later the ship was still a-building*

  4. #4
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    Default Re: the twelve days of Christmas

    Quote Originally Posted by guest
    hello,

    in the lyric of "the twelve days of CHristmas" one sentence goes like this " ten lords a-leaping"

    my questions are :
    1. what does the sentence mean? how do you phrase it?

    2. what does "a" in a-leaping" mean? does it mean anything???

    Thanks.

    paula
    i think it is like that to make the song sound in flow with the rythem

  5. #5
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    Default Re: the twelve days of Christmas

    The a may mean at, from old English, as in "he is at playing". Maybe someone else has a clearer explanation.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: the twelve days of Christmas

    New York Mike has given the answer:

    5 : in the act of; : in the process of ;
    *daddy's gone a-hunting*

    A-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go
    Heigh ho, the dairy-o, a-hunting we will go
    A-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go
    We'll catch a fox and put him in a box
    And then we'll let him go.


    The practice of putting a- before a gerund has long disappeared- or just about - and survives only in such songs like that above, and The Twelve Days of Christmas, and a few relics such as 'awaiting' (What's the T-shirt mesage?: "I am still awaiting public approbation for my arrival on earth."

    However, what isn't commonly known is that ducks a-laying does not actually mean ducks - and that goes for turtle doves too. This is a Christmas song, and so has religious connotations. It is said that the song was written to help Catholics learn the rules about their faith when being a practicing Catholic in England was forbidden and could result in death.

    1.True Love refers to God, Me refers to every baptized Catholic, and the partridge is Jesus.
    2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
    3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
    4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
    5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
    6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
    7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
    8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
    9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
    10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
    11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
    12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed


    These days, we do rather take it in its highly-fanciful literal sense.
    Last edited by David L.; 15-May-2009 at 18:59.

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