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There is an expression I have heard used many times in conversational U.S. English but cannot recall ever seeing in writing: day of as an adverb, omitting the object of the preposition.

Examples:

"Should we pick a restaurant now?"
"Nah, we can decide day of." [Or: "... the day of."].

"The day of, the weather turned out to be terrible."

The implied meaning is "adv. on the aforementioned day (of some event)".

I've checked several dictionaries and haven't found anything. Google searches have been fruitless because "day of" is almost always the beginning of a longer noun phrase.

Is there any documentation of the phrase's usage and origin?

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  • 4
    It's simple elision. "We can decide the day of [the event]."
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 20, 2020 at 2:09
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    @bof I've only heard it from native and fluent English speakers, not from ELLs. Perhaps it's limited to specific U.S. regions.
    – kpozin
    Jun 20, 2020 at 6:35
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    College age and older. I don't think it's a children's expression at all. Here are some more sample usages.
    – kpozin
    Jun 20, 2020 at 8:03
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    "Noun + of" appears a few times in English (as an elision, as Hot Licks says). In British English, "End of!" is probably the most common - it has the meaning "That is the end of the matter!" and is used in the sense of "And that is my final word!" The use of "noun + of" seems to be based on this construction.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 20, 2020 at 8:32
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    I hear "come with" for "come with us". Pretty common.
    – Lambie
    Apr 29, 2021 at 15:18

3 Answers 3

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Indeed, this expression is idiomatic to a number of native speakers. Significantly, it’s part of my dialect.

The expression is an ellipsis of “the day of [the event]”, and there are more possible variations:

  • The night of
  • The evening of
  • The morning of
  • The afternoon of
  • The week of

(But not “end of”, which I believe is an expression only used in British English. In any case, it’s not idiomatic in my dialect.)

It’s the same as expressions like “the night before” and “the day after”: what used to be a preposition is now an adverb.

The internet is rife with examples. It doesn’t look to me like the expression is specific to any one region of the US.

What does it mean when someone has a preliminary trial but the day of they don't bring them to court — Avvo, Maryland

but I didn't know about it until the night of — Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio

the police were not called the night of — Lawyers.com, Florida

If you're unable to join the evening of, we plan to post the audio recording on the South House Website. — Dartmouth, New Hampshire

I'm going to call them the morning of; they're all busy and I want to make sure they see it. — Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey

Encourage your student the night before and the morning of — Alachua Schools (download), Florida

On the afternoon of, she canceled, pleading fatigue and an impending sore throat. — NYT, Missouri/New York

Joe didn't know until the week of. — The Morning Call, Illinois

...And then there’s the fact that many other examples I found online were all about the same thing: wedding days. (These examples were mostly “the day of”, though there’s a significant number for “the morning of” as well.) Unlike previous examples, you’ll see the expression used extremely frequently, even multiple times on the same page. It’s used so much that it’s spawned an adjective (e.g. in “day-of coordinator”). In fact there are even wedding planners with this name like The Day-Of, Colorado and The Day Of Company, New York. Some examples:

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  • First off, this is spoken not written language. Second, the NYT would not write "the afternoon of" like that. Anyway, that link is not right or off or broken. But, I do agree with your post. I think it is a mistake to call this usage a dialectal one. You might want to point out the usage of "come with" or "go with".
    – Lambie
    Apr 29, 2021 at 14:16
  • There's also a Joe Biden speech: "we can also create accessible spaces for people to vote in person early and in person on the day of" msnbc.com/transcripts/the-last-word/2020-05-14-msna1357196
    – Stuart F
    Apr 29, 2021 at 14:26
  • @Lambie I think at this point it's quite safe to call it written language? It does appear in news articles and the like. Clearly it is no longer only in the domain of spoken language. Additionally I did double check the NYT article. The writer did indeed write "the afternoon of": "We made a date to see a movie. On the afternoon of, she canceled, pleading fatigue and an impending sore throat. She said she would rather make it another night. Was that O.K.?" ... otherwise at what point can we call spoken language written language? Is it not enough to have it written and published in major news?
    – Kasenjo
    Mar 13 at 17:58
  • Nope, not written language, sorry.
    – Lambie
    Mar 13 at 18:10
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As a non-native speaker I clearly remember the first time I heard this expression and want to share the example.

It’s a dialog from the 2004 Steven Soderbergh film Ocean’s Twelve.

Danny (George Clooney) is in a dark hotel room asleep and receives a wake-up call telling him it’s five AM. In the next scene he’s in the hotel hallway dressed to go as an unexpecting Rusty (Brat Pitt) opens the door:

Danny Ocean: What are you doing?

Rusty Ryan: Sleeping. Why are you dressed?

Danny Ocean: It's 5:30, day of. Gotta go, let's go!

Rusty Ryan: It's 11:30. The night before.

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0349903/quotes/?ref_=tt_trv_qu

By “day of” I take it Danny means it’s that day of the big heist they’ve been planning, the actual day their plan is to be carried out.

But Rusty’s response makes him realize it’s still night and that the caller posing as the hotel front desk staff was actually his rival plotting their downfall.

The soundtrack heard in the series of scenes for the next day (where we see things don’t go exactly as planned) is titled “7-29-04 The Day Of”.

— So there’s my example. Originally I had no intention of writing an answer, I’m not even a native speaker. Laurel’s answer is great and thought I’ll share this in a comment to his answer but found I couldn’t before I’ve earned “reputations”. To share the example in this system I decided I’ll have to write it as a separate answer.

Though mine is not a comprehensive answer I hope it is justified as it does provide an example of the usage that is public in the form of a film. Thank you.

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You say, The implied meaning is "adv. on the aforementioned day (of some event)".

I disagree. It means, "on the day": a subtle but meaningful difference. "On the day" is the more common abbreviation.

"Should we pick a restaurant now?" "Nah, we can decide on the day."

"On the day, the weather turned out to be terrible."

Although I'm Brtish, I understood the meaning of the phrase immediately. Probably because (like @Greybeard) I'm used to hearing "End of!"

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  • Are you claiming that it is widely used? If so, an answer here needs supporting evidence, If not, it shouldn't be answered on ELU. And note that the question asks for the origin (which needs addressing if the question is on-topic). Jun 20, 2020 at 10:41
  • I'm claiming that "on the day" is commonly used. I did not claim that "day of" is widely used. I'm saying that it was immediately obvious to me what "day of" meant, despite never having seen or heard it before. Jun 20, 2020 at 10:52
  • There are so few Google hits for "we can decide day[-]of" that it's moot whether this should be answered at all. And as regards one example I've found, << VIP Passes will include either a Hot Air Balloon or Helicopter Ride (your choice to decide day of) >> I can't say, even though I'm a native speaker, 'I understood the meaning of the phrase immediately'. Jun 20, 2020 at 11:08

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