By times…

Regular readers will know that I frequently use the phrase “by times” in this space:

…and, by times, an overpowering feeling of wanting to smash my new eyeglasses with a hammer and revert to my old prescription. (from)

John was, by times, my mentor, my teacher, my landlord, my boss, my interrogator, my arch nemesis and my friend. (from)

Patient. Kind. Accepting. Calm. Generous. Daring. Colourful. Iconoclastic. Brave. Inclusive. Witty. Wise. Bossy, by times. (from)

So we stayed. Oliver took deep breaths and, by times, squeezed my hand so tight I thought it might fall off. (from)

It wasn’t until this afternoon that I learned that this is a turn of phrase strongly associated with Prince Edward Island.

From Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English:

by times
Prepositional phrase. Also spelled and pronounced betimes. Frequent generally, but infrequent in Summerside; especially rural, male. 
From time to time; occasionally.

‘What about Milton and Shakespeare? And the poets of the Bible? They tell me Milton could not get along with his wife, and Shakespeare was no more than respectable by times’ (MONTGOMERY, LUCY MAUD, Rainbow Valley, 1923, 77).

The day had been cloudy by times but now the sun suddenly came out and performed its usual miracle (MONTGOMERY, LUCY MAUD, A Tangled Web, [1931], 268).

Tue. 19. Warm day, I am in bed had Dr. Moyse to see me my temperature is over 102. … Sat. 23.1am up by times (CAIRNS, SCOTT,Diary:January 2—March 31, 1939, April, 1938).

But don’t think the winter days were all work and no pleasure. Apart from a bit of loneliness by times, Andy was really enjoying his new experience (WARREN, EVANGELINE, Andy the Milkman, 1957, 58).

It would get pretty cold by times but we were dressed warm and we were young and active and kept ourselves warm (CAMPBELL, FRANK, As the Fella Says …, 1983, 75).

So it seems I have internalized an infrequent-in-Summerside, rural, male part of the Island vernacular to the point where I’d simply assumed it was used the world over. By times.


Olivia Rukavina's picture
Olivia Rukavina on May 24, 2021 - 15:45 Permalink

that makes sense because you lived in Kingston longer than Charlottetown as Charlottetown just has a small smidget of time.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on October 2, 2021 - 19:53 Permalink

Interesting. I guess it's a variant of "at times," which I use