oft » off
Spotted in the wild:
- Enjoyed your clever and off-times amusing comments. (Rep. Sherry Boehlert on Talking Points Memo, Feb. 4, 2005)
- After her victory, the off-repeated claim that no Senator has ever lost an election over this issue can no longer be made. (Sen. Maria Cantwell press release, Mar. 25, 2002)
- In crafting this proposal, Treasury has disregarded the off-quoted observation of Judge Learned Hand that taxpayers are entitled to arrange their business affairs so as to minimize taxation and are not required to choose the transaction that results in the greatest amount of tax. (Testimony Before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Mar. 10, 1999)
Analyzed or reported by:
- Ben Zimmer (ADS-L)
(From a posting on the American Dialect Society listserv.)
Surely “off-times” makes perfect sense as a pronunciation spelling for “oft-times”, simplifying the geminate /tt/ as is common for most American speakers (MWCD marks the first /t/ as optional).
Semantically, however, the reanalysis is a bit more puzzling to me. I would think that replacing the archaic/poetic “oft” element with the more common “off” might alter the sense somewhat — from ‘frequently’ to ‘occasionally’ or ‘intermittently’ (evoking not just the hiatal sense of “off-time” but also “off-and-on”, “on again, off again”, etc.).
A Google search on “off(-)times” doesn’t really bear out my hunch, though perhaps one could discern a subtle semantic shift going on.
And it appears that “off-” is replacing “oft-” in other compounds where no geminate /tt/ is involved, such as “oft-repeated” > “off-repeated” or “oft-quoted” > “off-quoted”.