Monday, November 11, 2013

Passtime* (for Pastime*)

"Don't you get enough cards by Schwiefka?" carps Eleanor Parker to a restive Frank Sinatra as he paces the floor flipping through a deck in Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm. "I just do it to kill the pastime, that's all..." he mutters. "What about my pastime?" she retorts. She wants to swim and dance and drink beer ("a little fun, a little anything!"), but since she's been confined to a wheelchair after a car accident caused by her drunken husband, her only real enjoyment seems to be guilt-tripping and confining him in return. Sinatra plays a recovering heroin addict, a fact that precluded the film from receiving a seal of approval by the Hollywood Production Code, but ultimately led to a loosening of that code's censorious standards. I won't spoil the plot for you, but I'm still wondering whether "kill the pastime" is a true example of "conflated idiom" (kill time + pastime) or if perhaps that was in fact a common phrasal variant during the 1950s. In any event, these kinds of usage vagaries, ephemeral slang, regionalisms, and so on are one reason I enjoy watching old movies so much. I just do it to kill two pastimes with one stone, that's all. I was intending to make today's typo Pasttime* but then I realized I did that one last year, so I decided to go with Passtime* instead. (Which is sort of a logical typo, actually, given that pastime is defined as something that makes "time pass" agreeably.) We were dealt six of these in OhioLINK, and 88 in WorldCat.

(Original theatrical release poster for the 1955 movie, The Man with the Golden Arm, by Saul Bass, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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