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    • Join Date: May 2006
    • Posts: 1,335
    #1

    Times a-wasting, times a-wasting.

    I heard on the radio sth like Times a-wasting, times a-wasting. I am no sure abt the spelling. Its meaning is clear but why such a strange construction? How could it be defined grammatically? I also heard another in a song, cant remember now.
    Could anybody please clarify that for me?
    Tnx.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Feb 2005
    • Posts: 2,585
    #2

    Re: Times a-wasting, times a-wasting.

    Hello Humble

    The a- prefix is a relic of the Old English preposition "on", which in this sense meant "engaged in" or "in the process of".

    It's quite common as an old-fashioned-sounding (or sometimes jocular) prefix to a gerund:

    1. That set me a-thinking = that set me on thinking = that made me engaged-in-thinking.

    2. Time is a-passing = Time is in the process of passing.

    3. I was a-walking down the road, when a girl... = I was engaged in walking down the road, when a girl...

    It's also hidden in many other words, such as "asleep" (engaged in sleep), "adrift" (in the process of drifting), "afoot" (on foot), etc.

    So in your example, it would mean:

    4. Time is in the process of wasting (i.e. being wasted).

    All the best,

    MrP


    • Join Date: May 2006
    • Posts: 1,335
    #3

    Re: Times a-wasting, times a-wasting.

    A wonderful explanation, MrPedantic. Tnx a lot!

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