Those Pesky Pastimes

By Maeve Maddox

What is a pastime?

It is an occupation that passes the time. Hobbies are pastimes. Attending sports events is a pastime. Cooking, woodworking, reading, and watching television are all pastimes. Most Americans have probably read thousands of times that baseball is “the national pastime.”

Yet, when I browse the web, I discover that thousands of web users do not know how to spell pastime:

Trolling used to be a past time for people who frequent these message boards.

What is your favorite past time-hobby? (Header for a Hub page)

I have three favorite past times.

Sleeping Is My Favorite Past Time

Marie now feels it time to put her favorite passed time to use and hopes she can give others as much joy with her books as some of her favorite authors have to her with their books. (Marie is publishing a book.)

The National Passed Time

My favorite pass time is watching tv shows as Family Guy and NCIS.

It’s my favorite passed time and hobby!!

Music is my favorite Pass-Time!

Cooking is my favorite pass time.

The word pastime combines the verb pass and the noun time. Its earliest documentation in the OED is dated 1490 and is spelled as two words: passe tyme. Through the centuries, it has been spelled in different ways. I suppose it might have come to be spelled “pass time” or “pass-time” or “passtime,” but it didn’t. Its modern spelling is pastime. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect modern speakers to learn to spell it that way.

While they’re at it, they might make an effort to learn the difference between passed and past.

Passed is the past tense of the verb pass:

The truck passed the Miata.
Time passed quickly.

Past can be either a preposition, an adjective, or a noun:

Preposition: The antelope ran past the watering hole.
Adjective: He recalled the past years with pleasure.
Noun: Don’t dwell in the past.

Related posts:
Confusing Passed with Past
Taking Another Pass at Passed

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4 Responses to “Those Pesky Pastimes”

  • Dale A. Wood

    The difference between “past” and “passed” has been mentioned in these columns before. On the other hand, that one is worth mentioning twice, thrice, four times!
    People who know chess well know what a “passed pawn” is and the dangers that it represents.

    On another subject, a weather reporter on TV in Birmingham said the dreaded “word” “irregardless” this morning. When will they ever learn? D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    So, in a few rare cases, the word “passed” can be an adjective. I don’t know if this is a use only in chess.
    D.A.W.

  • venqax

    Back in the day a “passed midshipman” was a midshipman who had passed examinations, qualifications, etc. Basically he had completed his officer training and was waiting for an opening in the commissioned ranks. Passed as adjective.

  • Ed Desautels

    On reading the title, I thought this post was going to be about the “passtime” spelling. Little did know what horrors lurked beyond.

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