past-time vs pastime (E.g., "Football, the great American past-time")

David_Porta

Member
American English
I ran across "past-time" used in the sense of pastime.

I did a Google search: American "past time"
About 3,900,000 results

I would not categorize this so much as a spelling error (such as "passtime") as I would categorize it a word misunderstanding error, in the same ballpark as "use to" instead of "used to"; or "another thing coming" instead of "another think coming." Based, I conjecture (as I also do concerning the two aforementioned examples), on one's having heard the word, instead of on one's having read the word.

Is it becoming standard? Or is it simply a common error, along the lines of confusing lay with lie (which, one hopes, will never become standard)?

pastime
Origin:
1480–90; earlier pas ( s ) e tyme, translation of Middle French passe-temps
 
  • Sedulia

    Senior Member
    **Literate** American English
    This is a spelling error. The correct spelling is pastime.

    Sorry, I didn't see that you're asking if it is becoming normal. Let's hope not. That wouldn't be in the category of expected changes in the language, but just in the category of illiteracy....
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi David

    I'd actually be rather surprised if "past-time" was a common error for "pastime" (but I'm always willing to live and learn:D).

    Do you have any examples from native speakers? And - in particular - are there any examples from 'edited' sources like Google Books/Google News?
     

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    Well, American pastime (no quotation marks) gets About 1,480,000 results on Google, while American "past time" (with the search using quotation marks as indicated) gets About 3,890,000 results on Google.

    Even if we sift out half of the latter search's results, they'd be running about neck and neck. No, wait, my bad. Past time would still be ahead by a far sight.

    Edited sources? I'm too lazy to look. No, wait. I forgot. I could use Google book results. There's about 3,490 results for "American past time" there (with the search using quotation marks as indicated).
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I think there are too many contexts where "past time" could mean something other than "pastime" to judge anything by these particular search results.

    I have seen people write or type "past time" when they meant "pastime", but I am not sure how common it is.

    [edit] Looking at the search results in Google Books, there are certainly a lot of examples where it is clear it is mean to be "pastime" (as in "baseball is the great American past time [sic]"). I'm surprised.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    For what it is worth, the Oxford English Dictionary does show pasttime as a former spelling of pastime, and shows past as once having been a form of pass. I agree with the others, however, that past-time in current writing would simply be an error for pastime.
     

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    past-time in current writing would simply be an error for pastime.
    Indeed.

    Not a mistake of spelling the correct word incorrectly.
    A mistake of spelling the incorrect hyphenated word (or phrase) correctly.

    Based on all the agreements here, I am guessing there are no advocates of past-time on WordReference.

    For what it is worth, the Oxford English Dictionary does show pasttime as a former spelling of pastime, and shows past as once having been a form of pass.
    is about as close to advocating past-time as I see here, which is not very close at all. I don't know what OED's status is here at WordReference, but I, being American and a booster of American Heritage Dictionary's editorial mission, am more inclined to that source. Their online page states ETYMOLOGY: Middle English passe tyme, translation of French passe temps : passer, to pass + temps, time. Pretty much what I had in the original post.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Indeed.

    Not a mistake of spelling the correct word incorrectly.
    A mistake of spelling the incorrect hyphenated word (or phrase) correctly.

    Based on all the agreements here, I am guessing there are no advocates of past-time on WordReference.

    is about as close to advocating past-time as I see here, which is not very close at all. I don't know what OED's status is here at WordReference, but I, being American and a booster of American Heritage Dictionary's editorial mission, am more inclined to that source. Their online page states ETYMOLOGY: Middle English passe tyme, translation of French passe temps : passer, to pass + temps, time. Pretty much what I had in the original post.
    I'm afraid you have lost me.
    Pastime is the current word/spelling. Were you asking about that or its history or about some non-standard forms that some people use - no-one, I think, is suggesting that past-time" is standard.
     

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    Was asking about the new-to-me and apparently common non-standard form, "past-time" - wondering, based on Google results if it was now a defended form, went here, since on the threads there *are* boosters of the non-standard "use to" and the non-standard "another thing coming," so figured, among the word mavens hereabouts, some might be on the side of "past-time," was curious to see what rationale behind it is, if any.

    As I stated earlier, I conjecture (but it is just conjecture) that this usage arises from one's having heard the word (instead of on one's having read the word), and back-forming the hyphenated word "past-time" from that. But that is just conjecture, and, really, I do not know the origin of this non-standard form, nor do I know how prevalent it is, though Google searches and Google book searches show it to be widespread, hence my query, "Is it becoming standard," and my creating this thread.

    Perhaps a reply might come from one of the many users of the non-standard but widely used form. Not yet.

    Well, the thread is here now. Maybe someone who uses past-time will come to WordReference one day and discover this thread, and offer some alternative insight.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If it is the google number that leads you to believe this is common, I would advise you not to trust it! (Scroll to the end of the list and see how many there really are, and check out a few of the many that are not related to this issue). There are some folks who make this error, but many of the hits for your search are genuine and not intended to be pastime.
     

    Thomas Veil

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I believe this would be categorized as an "eggcorn". I don't think that "another thing coming" belongs in the same category, since it is a perfectly coherent phrase for which the only basis for criticism is that it was likely inspired by the similar-sounding (and less grammatical) "another think coming".
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Was asking about the new-to-me and apparently common non-standard form, "past-time" - wondering, based on Google results if it was now a defended form, went here, since on the threads there *are* boosters of the non-standard "use to" and the non-standard "another thing coming," so figured, among the word mavens hereabouts, some might be on the side of "past-time," was curious to see what rationale behind it is, if any.
    I don't know how you're searching, but when you search for "past-time" on Google you get much more than just that word. Click on that link and then use your browser's search feature to look for past-time and you'll find Past-Time Rail and Past-Time Hobbies -- commercial names -- and then you'll see "past-time" is part of many URLs of the other results -- in other words, not the result at all. I quickly scanned a hundred results and didn't find "past-time" used as "pastime" in any of them.

    And even if you counted every single entry (which you shouldn't, based on what I just explained), if you go to the last results page, you'll find there are only 709 results. You should never look at the top figure on the first page of Google results.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    is about as close to advocating past-time as I see here, which is not very close at all. I don't know what OED's status is here at WordReference, but I, being American and a booster of American Heritage Dictionary's editorial mission, am more inclined to that source. Their online page states ETYMOLOGY: Middle English passe tyme, translation of French passe temps : passer, to pass + temps, time. Pretty much what I had in the original post.
    The OED is a historical dictionary, and if a word has been in the language for centuries, it lists the various forms that word has taken during that time. The forms I mentioned previously containing the letter t are:

    For pastime:
    Forms: ...


    β. ... 15 (18 arch.) pasttime
    For pass:
    ME paste ... pre-17 past
    It's not particularly surprising, then, that if past was once a form of pass, that pasttime would once have been a form of pastime, nor is it surprising that once past was no longer used for pass, pasttime would have passed out of use.

    Addition: Just to avoid any possible misunderstanding: The versions with t were an exception, with most forms of the word pass not having had a t and most versions of pastime having had only one t.
     
    Last edited:

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    I don't know how you're searching, but when you search for "past-time" on Google you get much more than just that word. Click on that link and then use your browser's search feature to look for past-time and you'll find Past-Time Rail and Past-Time Hobbies -- commercial names -- and then you'll see "past-time" is part of many URLs of the other results -- in other words, not the result at all. I quickly scanned a hundred results and didn't find "past-time" used as "pastime" in any of them.

    And even if you counted every single entry (which you shouldn't, based on what I just explained), if you go to the last results page, you'll find there are only 709 results. You should never look at the top figure on the first page of Google results.
    "I don't know how you're searching"
    Exactly as I described.

    The correct term preceded by the word America.
    American pastime - (no quotation marks) gets About 1,480,000 results on Google

    The incorrect term, in quotes, preceded by the word America.
    American "past time" - (with the search using quotation marks as indicated) gets About 3,890,000 results on Google

    The incorrect term, in quotes, preceded by the word America, in a Google book Search
    American "past time" - (with the search using quotation marks as indicated) gets About 3,490 results in a Google book Search [appearances in actual published books]

    I just did four new searches, to address your concerns.

    "American past time" - in quotes, so Google must find that exact phrase - About 1,010,000 results for that exact phrase in Google Search
    "America's past time" - in quotes, so Google must find that exact phrase - About 713,000 results for that exact phrase in Google Search
    "American past time" - in quotes, so Google must find that exact phrase - About 3,490 results for that exact phrase in Google Book Search
    "America's past time" - in quotes, so Google must find that exact phrase - About 757 results for that exact phrase in Google Book Search

    I used the words "American" and "America's" because the phrases "American pastime" and "America's pastime" are cliche, and so the likelihood of finding the non-standard "past-time" as part of the phrases using those modifiers to get the cliche variants was good. It is a way of trying to avoid the very issues you raise. It's not perfect, but that was why, in an earlier post, I suggested discounting 50% of the results.

    Even with my more restrictive new search criteria, Google Search gives over 1.7 million hits when one combines the two searches' results (which is legitimate, because the searches are not redundant). Even if you cut that sum by half (to discount false hits), it is over 800 thousand hits. It is startling.

    Google Book results are just as startling. Over 2,000 published books. Cut that by two thirds to eliminate errors, and it is still over 600 published books containing either one of those phrases. Published books being, as someone said above, "edited sources." Sources that had an editor approve them before being published. (Not necessarily, I know. Maybe there was no editor for this book, or that book. Maybe one book had a bad editor. But the law of large numbers allows us to discount those cases; just reduce the results by some arbitrary fraction, as I did when I wrote "Over 2,000 published books. Cut that by two thirds to eliminate errors, and it is still over 600 published books.")
     
    Last edited:

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    The incorrect, in quoted, preceded by the word America.
    American "past time" - (with the search using quotation marks as indicated) gets About 3,890,000 results on Google
    As has been shown, these raw numbers are virtually useless. If you search for American "past time" you will see 3,890,000 results ... now go to the bottom of the page and click through to the last results page (page 9), you will read this: In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 836 already displayed. (Bolding and color are mine.)

    Now look through the 836 results and notice that there aren't that many results for exactly what you searched for ... and certainly not all of them are intended to mean "past time" -- so you get things like "it's past time for bed" (which I made up because I'm not going to scan any more than I have).
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Did you read the last part of Copyright's post 13, David? Clicking through to the last page of results will give you 258 Google Books hits for "American past time".

    I fear you're making a mountain out of a molehill:). But even if the molehill were rather bigger, it wouldn't necessarily indicate that "past time"/"past-time" for "pastime" was becoming a standard spelling.


    EDIT: cross-posted with Copyright!
     

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    It's not particularly surprising, then, that if past was once a form of pass, that pasttime would once have been a form of pastime, nor is it surprising that once past was no longer used for pass, pasttime would have passed out of use.
    Very educational, thanks, about the single word "pasttime."

    Since I am looking only at "past-time" or "past time" (which is the same thing to Google Search, since it reads a hyphen as a space) in the phrases "America's past-time" or "American past-time," the single word "pasttime" is not really of concern here.
     

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    How does one click through to the last p[age of results?

    My results page shows a maximum of 10 pages of results listed at the bottom. If I click to go to page 10, it shows pages 5 through 14 at the bottom, and so on. There seems not to be a "go to last page of search" option.
     

    David_Porta

    Member
    American English
    Did you read the last part of Copyright's post 13, David? Clicking through to the last page of results will give you 258 Google Books hits for "American past time"
    I did read it. It seemed not very practical.

    My results page shows a maximum of 10 pages of results listed at the bottom. If I click to go to page 10, it shows pages 5 through 14 at the bottom, and so on.

    There seems not to be a "go to last page of search" option.

    How does one click through to the last page of results?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I have seen "past-time" fairly often lately. I still consider it an error but I agree that it does seem to be more common these days. The Corpus of Contemporary American English is a good place to check relative frequency since Google results are wildly inaccurate (if you take the number on the first page of results). "American pastime" gets 38 results, which is a pretty big number for COCA searches, in my experience. "American pasttime" gets only 1 result.
     
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