acoming, achanging

Discussion in 'English Only' started by peysek, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. peysek New Member

    Czech Republic, Europe

    if you enter "acoming" in Google, it seems that this word exists. But my dictionaries don´t know it. How come? I guess what it means in my mother tongue but it is probably a locally used word. (?) Just like Bob Dylan´s "times they are a-changing". Does anybody know? Thanks in advance. Petr
  2. tepatria Senior Member

    Onondaga, Ontario
    Canadian English
    Putting the a in front of words is a colloquialism that is not often used these days. We see it in songs and poems, perhaps because it fits the meter of the lyrics or poem. It does have a nice sound, but we don't use it in speaking.
  3. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Some people do:

    a-¹ prefix Added to present participles of verbs, especially in narrating a story. [see OED a Preposition 13; DARE labels this usage "throughout U.S., but especially frequent in Midland, Southwest; less frequent in South, New England" in the U.S.]

    a-² prefix Added to past participles of verbs. [OED calls this "now a relic form in southwest England"; DARE labels it "chiefly Midland, South" in the U.S.]

    DARE = Dictionary of American Regional English

    Dictionary: Southern Appalachian English
  4. tepatria Senior Member

    Onondaga, Ontario
    Canadian English
    Okay, it can be used, but would you recommend it to a non-native speaker River? I find it charming and poetic, but not something I would introduce in an ESL class.
  5. hiCKEEEEY New Member

    United States, English
    My advice would be to not use that if you are not a native speaker. It is even odd to say that if you are a native speaker.
  6. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I was interested to read from the Oxford English Dictionary that the structure
    verb to be + a (indicating action) + verbal noun (ending in -ing)
    is the origin of all the English continuous tenses.
    According to the OED, including the a in this structure is archaic or dialectal. The OED states that in literary English the a is omitted, and the verbal noun treated as a participle agreeing with the subject, and governing its case... But most of the southern dialects [I suppose this means of England] , and the vulgar speech both in England and America, retain the earlier usage.

    The OED adds that the a is also used with verb of motion meaning to or into: to, into (to go a fishing, come a wooing, fall a laughing, crying, fighting, to set the bells a ringing, to send children a begging). This usage to is archaic or dialectal save in a few phrases, as to go a begging (mostly of offices); and with set, as to set the clock a going, the bells a ringing, folk a thinking, where also a is often omitted.

    Tepatria and Hickeeey, I know your comments were well meant, but don't you think that Peysek's post hints that his / her knowledge of and interest in English, 'correct', regional, idiomatic and dialectal, is as least as good as that of many, many native speakers, and that he / she seems perfectly capable of understanding the role of this a in modern English?
  7. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I don't know that this is true. In some areas of the U.S. it would not be unusual at all to hear "I was a-fixin' to go to the store". It's used more in telling stories, but they can be stories about recent events or even everyday events.

    Here are some examples from Google showing that it's still used:

    > Here is a patch for fixing profiling support in GNU/Hurd, to be applied
    > on top of my previous pthread patch.
    > Are you sure that it works? I recall far more things that needed a'fixing....

    Anyway, that’s about all I’ve had time to play with and I’m actually going to have to uninstall it now to get my disk space back as XP is a-bitchin’ and a-moanin’ about there not being enough!

    Northeast Indy gets a-plannin'

    Who's interested in a scheduled write-in? Weekly? Twice a week?

    I don't have a lot of social time in real life, so I find myself going to the same places again and again. Throw out some ideas, and we'll see what we can put together
  8. tinlizzy

    tinlizzy Senior Member

    USA - English
    Current country songs are full of words like a-wishing, a-hoping and a-praying.

    It's not even deep south speech. Cross Iowa into Missouri, stop for lunch and you will hear the waitress say, "were y'all still a-thinkin or are 'ya ready to order?"
  9. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    Saying spigot for faucet and afeered for afraid is property of a brave speaker. Or someone from Kansas who is still avoting Republican. Anyone who seriously speaks that way is branded as a hayseed.
  10. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    That's odd. I grew up in Nebraska (next door to Iowa and Missouri) and never heard that usage. I would have guessed that it was archaic (or limited to modern folk music).
  11. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    My recommendation? If your dictionaries don't "know it" (that's a different way of saying it, by the way:)), don't use it.
  12. Those Who Squirm New Member

    English, American
    I wouldn't expect to find acoming or achanging in a dictionary because, when written, a hyphen is usually used with these expressions: a-changing, a-coming. Whether the word appears in a given dictionary depends on the dictionary and the word. An unabridged dictionary that includes obsolete words and usages should have a listing for the a- prefix, an abridged dictionary might not have this, but might have some of the words that appear in (relatively) contemporary culture, like a-changing, specifically because of the Dylan song.
  13. mplsray Senior Member

  14. johnhh New Member

    English - UK
    In England, where the language was invented after much discussion with Foreign Invaders, acoming is not an unusual word.
  15. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    "...after much discussion with Foreign Invaders..."

    :) :) :)

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