a long time passing: overdue, a long time ago/to pass?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by susanna76, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. susanna76 Senior Member

    Hi there,

    I realized I'm not sure what "a long time passing" means. Does it mean "overdue," "a long time ago," or "it took a long time to pass"?

    Song lyrics are not very helpful. What the ones below seem to suggest is that it doesn't mean "overdue" -- and yet in some contexts it could be interpreted like that.
    (As in
    "That took you a long time."
    "It was a long time passing.")

    So now the song:
    "Where have all the flowers gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the flowers gone?
    Long time ago"
    ("Where Have All the Flowers Gone"
    music and lyrics by Pete Seeger)

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    'Long time passing' in the song is an ungrammatical and asyntactical expression.
    It is not good English, nor is it correctly incorporated in a proper sentence.
    I've always understood it as an attempt to say 'over a long period of time'.
  3. susanna76 Senior Member

    Hi wandle, thank you for your help! "Over a long period of time" is the definition that now feels right to me as well, but, still, given that song, I wonder if maybe in the US "long time passing" can also be used to mean "a long time ago"!?
  4. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    No. It doesn't mean "a long time ago" in the song either. Perhaps a less poetic example will help you.
    "Mother was in the hospital with terminal cancer for six months before she finally passed."
    "Yes, she was a long time passing."
  5. susanna76 Senior Member

    Thank you so much, Myridon!
  6. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    In Myridon's example, "passing" is a euphemism for dying.

    In the song, "long time passing" fits the rhythm of the melody and is basically short for "a long time has passed by". (That kind of thing can't be done in conversation or prose writing, but songs and poems offer a lot of leeway for departures from the normal rules of grammar.)
  7. susanna76 Senior Member

    Thank you, Parla!:)

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