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I was watching a 1934 Hollywood film today and one of the American characters used the phrase, Of a Tuesday. I don't think I'd ever heard an American use this in real life or in a film before then, even though I watch a lot of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood movies. I have since heard it used occasionally in films from about the 1920s to the 1960s, but I have still never heard it used outside of films.

Perhaps this, like the MidAtlantic accent in the first half of the century, was and is something used by actors, and in this case writers, far more commonly than by regular (non-theatrical) Americans.

Does phrase Of a Tuesday simply mean the same as On a Tuesday? Is it a commonly used phrase? Has the meaning or popularity changed significantly over time? Are there differences in meaning or usage between British and American English?

So, what are the meaning(s) and usage(s), history, and current popularity of both in American and British English?

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Please could you give examples of sentences that make use of X-Day and Y-Day that allow me to understand them. I have not heard them used ever. The only reference I have found is in Wikipedia, relating to military jargon. –  Matt Эллен Jan 10 '12 at 10:47
    
@MattЭллен See ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/DAP-Poland/Campaign-Chron.html 14 Jul to 1 Sep. –  Kris Jan 10 '12 at 11:05
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@Kris - Thanks, although that still seems to be military jargon, rather than something someone would use in everyday speech. I'm at a loss as to what Sarah is asking about of a Y-Day and of an X-Day. –  Matt Эллен Jan 10 '12 at 11:07
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I think we're talking about sentences like, for example, "I enjoy walking in the park of a Sunday". Right? If so the question could be made a bit clearer and more concise but it's an interesting question. –  z7sg Ѫ Jan 10 '12 at 12:02
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You ask if it is in American use. I, too, thought it was exclusively British - but I have been listening to some Vic and Sade broadcasts of 1938-40 - and find it often used there. –  user19243 Mar 21 '12 at 12:22

2 Answers 2

If your question is about the use of of before a day of the week, then the answer is that, at least in some varieties of British English, it is used to mean ‘at some time during, in the course of, on’. This use has its origins in Old English and has been in continuous use for 1500 years. Here are just three examples from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Always of a Monday morning he was on the dock a good half-hour before the expected arrival of the boat for town.

Mr. More . . . expounds the universe and the Platonical soul to 'em in St. Clement's Church of a Monday afternoon.

Kippers of a Friday, roast of a Sunday.

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Yes. Great examples. So, was this at any time used to the exclusion of on a Monday? or on Monday? While the of_construction sounds lovelier to me, poetic even, _on makes more sense. I'm sure it's mostly because it's what I'm used to, but then in the case of on vs. in, which I ask about here, while in sounds wrong, I can better understand the sense of it than the of in of a Sunday. Also, any info on American English usage of this? –  sarah Jan 10 '12 at 14:10
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@sarah: The OED’s note on this usage says ‘Apparently taking the place of the Germanic and Old English genitive of time. Now only implying regularity or repetition.’ It’s also found in expressions such as ‘I like to have a beer or two of an evening.’ I doubt, however, if it was ever used to the total exclusion of anything else and I don’t think we can any longer consider it as being Standard English. –  Barrie England Jan 10 '12 at 15:30
    
+1 : for the etymology - it would be interesting to know if an equivalent survived in German. –  cindi Jan 10 '12 at 17:36
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@sarah: Yes, there are other possibilities, but 'of a decade' is not among them. By ‘Standard English’ I meant that variety of the language that is, in one linguist’s words, ‘(1) written in published work, (2) spoken in situations where published writing is most influential, especially in education (and especially at University level), (3) spoken “natively” (at home) by people who are most influenced by published writing - the “professional class” ’. I don’t think you’d find the ‘of a’ construction in such places. –  Barrie England Jan 11 '12 at 17:12
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I would only add that it's currently standard in Appalachia, less commonly with the day of the week, but quite commonly with the time of day. "I like to sit here of an evening." –  Julia Jan 12 '12 at 5:03

I hadn't thought that construction particularly BrE. Do you mean Way out West (1937) ? He died of a Tuesday is a very ancient Musical Hall joke in which case Stan Laurel is the missing link. If not, what is the film - maybe it had an English writer.

I think the accent (Katharine Hepburn is the worst offender) is usually referred to as Mid-Atlantic - I also found http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Theater_Standard

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Thanks. That clip shows that the audience would have been expected (or at least hoped) to be familiar with the of a weekday phrase. Also, thanks for Mid_Atlantic_accent. Weird because I'm a native to the Mid-Atlantic US states, and we don't talk at all like that. I see it was also called _Transatlantic, which I prefer! –  sarah Jan 10 '12 at 13:33
    
I'm not positive it belongs here on english.se--maybe linguistics.se would be better, but there are similar questions here, so I've posted a question slightly expanded from this idea here Maybe you'd be interested in posting an expanded answer. –  sarah Jan 10 '12 at 14:14
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Good thought to check, though it turns out the writers were all Americans. Interestingly, one, W. E. Woodward, was credited with creating a new down to earth style of biographical writing and for coining the word "debunk". The film was Evelyn Prentice. –  sarah Jan 10 '12 at 14:42

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