Many an hour

javi

Member
Español - España
Hi everyone,


I'm writing with regard to this sentence "I've been wasting many an hour doing sth".

I had never seen it before and I guess the meaning is many hours (although it might also be as much as an hour).

Apart from the meaning, what I'd also like to know is whether it is a common use expression or not, and also a grammatical explanation if possible.


Thanks in advance!

Javi
 
  • plsdeluno

    Senior Member
    English-England
    Hi everyone,


    I'm writing with regard to this sentence "I've been wasting many an hour doing sth".I´ve wasted many an hour

    I had never seen it before and I guess the meaning is many hours (although it might also be as much as an hour).

    Apart from the meaning, what I'd also like to know is whether it is a common use expression or not, and also a grammatical explanation if possible.

    Hi It means as you have said, many hours.
    Yes it is a common expression. Here is an example.
    I´ve wasted many an hour trying to fix my car.

    Sorry i can not give you a grammatical explanation.
     

    Perrito

    Senior Member
    Estats Units, anglès
    I've heard it before. Personally, it sounds like an archaic way to say: to spend/waste, etc...a long time or many hours doing x thing. I've used it and in my circle of friends I've heard people say: many an hour, to be funny.

    I've spent many an hour watching Los hombres de Paco; I need to stop now!! (Because I've seen every episode).

    I've spent many an hour on WR; it's a small obsession.

    Etc...
     

    chileno

    Senior Member
    Castellano - Chile
    I've heard it before. Personally, it sounds like an archaic way to say: to spend/waste, etc...a long time or many hours doing x thing. I've used it and in my circle of friends I've heard people say: many an hour, to be funny.

    I've spent many an hour watching Los hombres de Paco; I need to stop now!! (Because I've seen every episode).

    I've spent many an hour on WR; it's a small obsession.

    Etc...
    I agree. I have read of this usage many a time. :)
     

    duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    It's known and used a little bit. Normally is the construction for 'a waste of time'.

    I spent many a year working on my dissertation... (it's difficult to explain why some 'constructions' carry an additional meaning in them. You basically have to learn them by heart). And there is a whole field called 'construction grammar', dealing with word order, intonation, etc.
     

    JorgeHoracio

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    not only used for time ...witness this song from the musical "Oklahoma!":
    ... Many a new face will please my eye,
    Many a new love will find me;
    Never've I once looked back to sigh over the romance behind me;
    Many a new day will dawn before I do!
    Many a light lad may kiss and fly, ...
     
    Last edited:

    Perrito

    Senior Member
    Estats Units, anglès
    ¡Sí! Es algo acraico, por eso lo has hallado en: Oklahoma una obra del MidWest EE UU. Me hace gracia oírlo. Hoy día, se suele oír cuando la gente bromea.
     
    I've heard it before. Personally, it sounds like an archaic way to say: to spend/waste, etc...
    I don't agree that it's archaic. "Many a(n) + noun" is a construction still heard frequently in the American South (and, perhaps, other regions as well - I'm not sure). I use it from time to time, and certainly do not find it odd or old-fashioned. Basically, it adds emphasis to the more standard construction "many +noun".

    A famous American pop song from the late '50s began with the well-known line "many a tear has to fall, but it's all in the game." That's an excellent example of the use of this construction.

    Saludos...
     

    Perrito

    Senior Member
    Estats Units, anglès
    Well, maybe I'm using "archaic" wrong. It's definitely not archaic like Old English Archaic, but it's not very popular anymore. It's fallen in disuse, at least in my dialect of Pennsylvania!
     

    chileno

    Senior Member
    Castellano - Chile
    I don't agree that it's archaic. "Many a(n) + noun" is a construction still heard frequently in the American South (and, perhaps, other regions as well - I'm not sure). I use it from time to time, and certainly do not find it odd or old-fashioned. Basically, it adds emphasis to the more standard construction "many +noun".

    A famous American pop song from the late '50s began with the well-known line "many a tear has to fall, but it's all in the game." That's an excellent example of the use of this construction.

    Saludos...
    I agree.

    I used to live in California, and I would hear it somewhat often. Its construction/usage still can be read in many written material/books etc.
     

    alebeau

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    I've heard it before. Personally, it sounds like an archaic way to say: to spend/waste, etc...a long time or many hours doing x thing. I've used it and in my circle of friends I've heard people say: many an hour, to be funny.

    I've spent many an hour watching Los hombres de Paco; I need to stop now!! (Because I've seen every episode).

    I've spent many an hour on WR; it's a small obsession.

    Etc...
    I agree completely. The construction "many + a + singular noun" has a paradoxical effect. In standard English, 'many' is usually always accompanied by a plural noun. However, when the speaker says "many + a + singular noun," he is purposely trying to deviate from modern speech so that what he says has a rather 'different' ring to it. It's meant to be archaic so that the interlocutor notices it.

    Anyway, hope this has been helpful.

    Take care,

    --André L.
     

    Alma de cántaro

    Senior Member
    Español ibérico
    ¡Sí! Es algo acraico, por eso lo has hallado en: Oklahoma una obra del MidWest EE UU. Me hace gracia oírlo. Hoy día, se suele oír cuando la gente bromea.

    Does this mean that it could be ironic? I mean for example, if I said "I've been spending many an hour studying" I would be meaning "I haven't been spending a single hour studying"?

    Thanks in advance
    Saludos
     
    Does this mean that it could be ironic? I mean for example, if I said "I've been spending many an hour studying" I would be meaning "I haven't been spending a single hour studying"?
    No... it means the same thing as "many hours."

    It would only be ironic if you could replace it with "many hours" in the same context. But the phrase is definitely not inherently ironic.

    Saludos...
     

    javi

    Member
    Español - España
    Thanks for all the replies.

    Now I have it clear when and how to use it.

    It's been interesting, thank you!
     
    ...when the speaker says "many + a + singular noun," he is purposely trying to deviate from modern speech so that what he says has a rather 'different' ring to it. It's meant to be archaic...
    I'm sorry, but that is simply incorrect. You've just made a sweeping generalization about all American English. As I said above, this construction is still heard frequently in the American South, and the people who use it - including me - are certainly not trying to sound archaic. In fact, I ran across it today in a scholarly history book that was written way back in... 1990. :)

    It is simply a turn of phrase that lends a bit of color to speech. I would never discourage an English Language Learner from using it.

    In all seriousness, how do you young folk define archaic?
     

    alebeau

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    I'm sorry, but that is simply incorrect. You've just made a sweeping generalization about all American English. As I said above, this construction is still heard frequently in the American South, and the people who use it - including me - are certainly not trying to sound archaic. In fact, I ran across it today in a scholarly history book that was written way back in... 1990. :)

    It is simply a turn of phrase that lends a bit of color to speech. I would never discourage an English Language Learner from using it.

    In all seriousness, how do you young folk define archaic?
    Well, I'm from the south (New Orleans), and I can tell you that it is not common at all. In fact, I remember last time a someone used it he was referring to like medieval Europe. Actually he is majoring in Medieval Studies at my school and when he said "many a battle", he actually put on an old, British accent. For reasons like this, this expression seems rather literary/archaic to me. I've only seen it in extremely archaic, literary contexts.

    As far as archaic is concerned, here is what my dictionary has:

    very old or old-fashioned : prisons are run on archaic methods. See note at old .
    • (of a word or a style of language) no longer in everyday use but sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavor.
    • of an early period of art or culture, esp. the 7th–6th centuries bc in Greece: : the archaic

    Copyright © 2005–2009 Apple Inc.
    All rights reserved.
    Here's what I found online:


    Authority for this last paragraph: The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers by Maxine Hairston and John J. Ruszkiewicz. 4th ed. HarperCollins: New York. 1996. Examples our own.

    An indefinite article is sometimes used in conjunction with the quantifier many, thus joining a plural quantifier with a singular noun (which then takes a singular verb):

    Many a young man has fallen in love with her golden hair.
    Many an apple has fallen by October.
    This construction lends itself to a somewhat literary effect (some would say a stuffy or archaic effect) and is best used sparingly, if at all.

    Source: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/determiners/determiners.htm
    Likewise, here is what another source said:

    Formerly many, many a, and many one were construed with a singular and plural, whereas nowadays many takes a plural and many a a singular predicate. (Many one has fallen into disue, exc. Sc.). A (great, good, etc.) many is invariably found with a plural verb.

    Source: An historical syntax of the English language, Volume 1, Part 3 By Fredericus Theodorus Visser
    Anyway, I suppose you can make your own informed decision. I'm sticking with it being 'archaic.'

    Take care,

    --AL
     

    javi

    Member
    Español - España
    Nope. It's entirely true.
    I'm sorry, but that's ludicrous. There is no way archaic can be described as something said 5 years ago.

    Not in English:
    1. old and no longer used
    a.
    used about something that is very old-fashioned and needs to be changed

    2. relating to ancient times
    http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/archaic


    Nor in Spanish:
    1. adj. Muy antiguo o anticuado.

    2. adj. Geol. Se dice del más antiguo de los dos períodos en que se divide la era precámbrica. U. t. c. s. m.
    http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltConsulta?TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=arcaico



    Regarding the use of the expression, I believe Perrito was right when he mentioned it could be used in an ironic way, to emphasise how much time sb has devoted in sth.
    Also, from what I've read, my opinion is that in general is not common usage, though when speaking is a sofisticated expression to use.

    Saludos
     
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