oft » off

Chiefly in:   off-times , off-repeated , off-quoted

Classification: English – final d/t-deletion

Spotted in the wild:

Analyzed or reported by:

(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”.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/02/15 |

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