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Re: Passing the time of day

Posted by R Berg on April 07, 2008 at 07:08:

In Reply to: Re: Passing the time of day posted by Smokey Stover on April 02, 2008 at 18:10:

: : Where does the phrase 'passing the time of day' come from? Some say maybe it has a military meaning.

: The Oxford English Dictionary has considerable discussion of the various ways "pass" has been used. In regard to passing time, or the time of day, it has this:

: "11. c. trans[itive]. To spend or use up (a period of time) engaged in a particular activity, or while in a particular place; to occupy (time) while it passes.
: Freq. with transferred epithet indicating the manner or state of mind in which a person spends a period of time, as to pass a restless night (i.e. to pass a night restlessly), etc.
: c. trans. To spend or use up (a period of time) engaged in a particular activity, or while in a particular place; to occupy (time) while it passes.
: Freq. with transferred epithet indicating the manner or state of mind in which a person spends a period of time, as to pass a restless night (i.e. to pass a night restlessly), etc."

: The examples cited by the OED begin with one from 1340 that I have omitted, as it uses Old English orthography.
: "GOWER Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) I. 2175 Thus passen thei that wofull nyht. a1425 (?a1400) CHAUCER Romaunt Rose 3979 Many an Aprill and many a May We han passed, not ashamed. a1525 G. MYLL Spectakle of Luf in W. A. Craigie Asloan MS I. 272, I tuk a lytill buk in Latyn to pas mye tyme. 1597 SHAKESPEARE Richard III I. iv. 2 Oh I haue past a miserable night, So full of vgly sights, of gastly dreames. 1674 R. BOYLE Excellency Theol. I. i. 35 A very pleasant way of passing one's time. . . ."

: Passing the time gave rise to the word "pastime," which means an agreeable, or at least a common, way of passing the time, which the OED finds from c1489.

: I don't know what difference the phrase "of day" adds to the meaning other than to specify daytime as opposed to nighttime. Do you have a citation from someone suggesting a military meaning?

"Passing the time of day" looks like a blend of two phrases, "passing the time" (thoroughly explained by Smokey, above) and "the time of day." I don't think it's a set phrase itself. I don't recall hearing it. ~rb