once in a while » once and a while

Variant(s):  once and awhile

Classification: English – and «» in/en

Spotted in the wild:

  • My computer starts up only once and a while (Tech Support Forum)
  • “You have a warped mind. Read a book once and a while that doesn’t have a picture of Jesus on it.” (Posting by michaelav@cox.net to five Usenet newsgroups, including soc.motss, on 9 September 2005)
  • “And yes, every once and awhile, we want to see movies based on beloved religious literature or themes …” ("Missing the big picture", USA Today, 6 February 2006)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Paul Brians (Common Errors in English)
  • Ron Butters (ADS-L posting, 15 February 2006)

I am inclined to this one myself — edited it out of a Language Log posting only yesterday (28 March 2005).

One of a large number of reanalyses that turn on the interpretation of an unstressed syllabic n, which could be “and”, “in”, “-en”, “-in’”, etc.

[Added 9 September 2005: This version of the expression might also be influenced by the idiom “once and for all”, though the two idioms are not particularly close semantically.]

[Added 15 February 2006: the alternative spelling “awhile”, in the USA Today article quoted by Ron Butters on ADS-L.]

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/03/29 |

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