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The first lines of George Thorogood's version of "One bourbon, one scotch, one beer":

Wanna tell you a story
about the houseman blues.
I come home one Friday,
had to tell the landlady I'd-a lost my job.

What does this I'd-a stand for? These lyrics perhaps are just misheard. If so, what does Thorogood say in place of I'd-a?

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It's just Southern American and Italian-American dialect, now also adopted by some African American Vernacular English speakers in forms like I'm a-gonna [do something]. –  FumbleFingers Aug 1 '13 at 16:54
    
@FumbleFingers Gee maybe. I kept trying to make the -a be a have contraction as in coulda, shoulda, woulda. –  tchrist Aug 1 '13 at 17:42
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Or maybe he needed an extra syllable to match the meter (or whatever you call it in a song)? –  JeffSahol Aug 1 '13 at 20:08
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8 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

(This was a originally a comment)

The lyrics are from a John Lee Hooker song called "House Rent Boogie." Thorogood himself grew up in a decidedly middle-to-upper class non-country setting and is affecting Hooker's style.

In both the original and Thorogood's medley, it sounds a lot more like "I done lost" or "I'd done lost."

Additionally, your transcription is inaccurate in that George says "house-rent blues."

For "I done" etc. See for instance ( Auxiliary movement in AAVE )

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I think your answer is the correct one. Later in these lyrics, we can find: So I goes to the landlady, I said, "You let me slide?" And following your link I found a similar example: So I stay(s) too. –  thorn Aug 2 '13 at 9:28
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The "-a" is a mark of the speaker's regional speaking patterns; as you can see from the rest of the lyrics you posted, he has a very "country" way of speaking. The meaning is "I'd lost my job", the "-a" is just a regionalism, it doesn't add any further meaning.

The I'd expands to I had; the full sentence is I had lost my job. That is, he's telling his landlord he no longer has a job (and presumably can no longer pay his rent).

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Just want to point out that the lyrics are from a John Lee Hooker song called "House Rent Boogie." Thorogood himself grew up in a decidedly middle-to-upper class non-country setting and is affecting Hooker's style. In the original, it sounds a lot more like "I done lost..." –  horatio Aug 1 '13 at 18:10
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@horatio don't forget that the rest of the song has other roots as well, going back to 1953 and was also recorded by John Lee Hooker. –  Patrick M Aug 1 '13 at 18:43
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Dunno about the song, but /aydə/ normally is the pronunciation of the contraction of I would have. So I'd-a [however spelled] lost my job means 'I would have lost my job'; i.e, it's counterfactual "preterite subjunctive". –  John Lawler Aug 1 '13 at 19:55
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@JohnLawler Out of context I'd agree, but in context I didn't think I would have made much sense. Who would tell their landlord that they would have lost their job, and I'm missing the logical conclusion there: I would have lost it, but I didn't, so what happened? So from context and seeing southern influences in the rest of the transcribed lyrics, I drew "I had" as what seemed the only logical conclusion. Do you disagree? –  WendiKidd Aug 1 '13 at 20:15
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I think you're applying a lot of literary analysis to a rock song; singers, especially popular singers, frequently syncopate and epenthesize lyrics to match various other things, like the beat or some real or fancied dialect pronunciation. –  John Lawler Aug 1 '13 at 20:29
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"I'd a lost my job" means "I had lost my job". The contraction is for "I had" not "I would".

The "a" in front of the "lost" participle is interesting.

This is not simply a regional dialect, but is deeply rooted in English morphology.

It is a sort of prepositional prefix which indicates being in or on something, or in the middle of an activity (if applied to a verb).

For instance to "come a knocking on someone's door" or to "go a walking in the park".

There are English words which incorporate this "a". If you are sleeping, you are "asleep". Or if you see something ghastly, you can become aghast. Words like "aboard", "ahead" and "alight" follow a similar pattern.

What is dialectal, perhaps, is overuse of this "a" prefix: applying it liberally and perhaps inappropriately to all kinds of verbs in nearly every spoken sentence.

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It could also be a contraction for "I had". Which makes sense why he had to tell the land lady that he lost his job.

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I believe "I had" is correct. That's how I interpret it anyway. –  Mark Allen Aug 1 '13 at 18:08
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"I'd-a" represents the hesitation of the speaker to speak the sentence because losing a job is not something that doesn't hit your heart. From the context here, "I'd-a" is the same as "I had - uh..."

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I would have lost my job:

I'd (I would) -a ('ave; Have) Lost my job

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This is contradictory to all the other answers and does not seem to fit the original quotation. –  TrevorD Aug 1 '13 at 18:16
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An answer that is the same as other answers, shouldn't-a been posted. –  T.E.D. Aug 1 '13 at 18:23
    
some answers appear almost simultaneously. –  deecemobile Aug 1 '13 at 18:34
    
That was my answer and somebody downvoted it. Why are YOU immune? I deleted mine, because I clearly hadn't read the question all the way through. As appears you did not. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 1 '13 at 20:50
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This isn't correct in the specific context of the question, but it is correct for "I'd-a" in general. –  DisgruntledGoat Aug 2 '13 at 11:01
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After reading through the answers so far, I'd like to posit one potential alternative. It seems like this could be a contraction or irregular written spelling of "I done lost my job." Using the context (that the sentence does not appear to be subjunctive) I think "I'd-a" could be written for this - likely with the writer misconstruing the construct.

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Depending on how you pronounce the d in had, you can turn this one syllable word into two syllables.

I usually hear people say had quickly, with one syllable. But say it slower, focus on separating the d from the ha. You get ha+duh. Or at least, I default to elongating the d with an uh sound. Maybe you'll say it more ha+deh.

Anyway, this is what you're hearing in the song lyric. Given the context, I'd is most likely I had. The extra syllable you're hearing is just the person savouring the d.

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