11.07.2006

Often times

Maybe I'm paying attention more, but it seems that people are saying "oftentimes" more often.

For instance, some would say, "Oftentimes, I think about my mom."

Isn't that redundant? "Often" takes care of that concept, so the addition of "times" is really integrated within the meaning of "often."

It's so unnecessary, it stands out when people use it, and then they just keep on talking as if it's not a big deal that they are being redundant.

Also, why is the official spelling one word? It seems like it should be two words: "often times." But that's a secondary concern because I hear people say it more than they write it.

71 comments:

Arrogant Polyglot said...

I like "oftentimes" and, in my opinion, use it in a more formal register, like I would "amongst" instead of "among". From a regional perspective, perhaps "oftentimes" is used more in Canada than the US.

And why shouldn't it be written in one word? So, too, is "sometimes".

mj said...

True--I hadn't thought of it with a similar construction as "sometimes". So in a way, it's a variation of that word, just doing something more frequently. But I still think that "often" is good enough :) Or maybe I'm just a simple-minded American ;)

Anonymous said...

Using the phrase "often times" is not only redundant, it is incorrect. Saying "often" is always sufficient. There is no reason two use two words where one word entirely conveys what you want to say.

mj said...

That's what I've been thinking.

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with you often times or oftentimes IS redundant... it also sounds horrible.

mj said...

I heard it several times today--I don't think people realize that it sounds redundant.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth - this drives me f-ing crazy! It's definately a California thing, can't comment on the rest of the US. I thought it was just my boss's poor English for a while (she's South American) but I hear it everyday; it's killing me...

mj said...

It's not just a California thing--I think southerners use it too. I don't hear it in Chicago a lot, but it still seems to be spreading throughout the U.S., especially when well-known people use it. I never do!

mb said...

I'm a UK-based editor of science articles. I'm working on a manuscript written by an author in Illinois, who has used 'often times' several times - needless to say, I'll be changing this throughout the article!

mj said...

Wow--I'm also from Illinois, but never use such words. But there are plenty of people who use it, so it's probably correct. But if I were to read it, especially through a science article, I'd get pretty annoyed :D

That's cool that you're in the UK and are editing stuff my my American state :D

mb said...

Well, we scientists can move around a lot and pick up the local lingo!
My author worked in Wisconsin and then California before moving to Illinois, so perhaps that has a bearing ;) The article's great so I'll forgive him!

I work with authors from all round the world - the location doesn't matter but the author needs to be a top scientist, a leader in the field so to speak. Sometimes native English-speaking authors have poorer written English than their Japanese/French/German counterparts :)

mj said...

Yeah--with the Internet you can obviously work anywhere.

Are you a scientist, or just an editor of science stuff?

mb said...

Yep, I'm a biologist with broad interests. I did postdoc research in a number of different fields until ~3 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree.

Oftentimes is the opposite of sometimes. I think its a charming word. If you don't like it, then don't use it.

mj said...

I didn't think of that--that "often" simply replaces "some".

tipsi said...

I do medical transcription for US hospitals in another country. I often hear the word 'majority of the pain.' Is this typically American usage, as the word 'majority' generally is used to refer to a countable numbner of people or things and pain is an abstract noun?

mj said...

Well, as you know, spoken language isn't always grammatical correct, so people do use "majority" for non-countable nouns when they speak.

Anonymous said...

Oftentimes, and even oftimes, often times does seem to me at certain, if not often, times redundant. If oftentimes often times appeals it should, even then, be considered wordy.

mj said...

Seems like you often think about it

tipsi said...

Hi,
Came across 'oftentimes' today while doing medical transcription for a provider in Vermont.

"She often notices that her right lower leg from below the knee to her foot to her toes is oftentimes numb". In fact I hear that phrase pretty often.

mj said...

Me too...which is why I did this post

Y. Uno said...

I lived in the States in the 70s. I'd never heard this expression used in those days. When I heard it on Fox News this year, I couldn't believe my ears. Now Americans are saying it all the time. Even Barack Obama does. Obviously, times is redundunt. Educated people shouldn't speak like that.

mj said...

I don't remember hearing it so much when I was growing up. I seriously wonder why its usage has increased so much. I'm sure there's a linguist/language nerd out there who knows the answer.

Jakska said...

Quote:
"At 4:43 PM, Anonymous said...
I completely disagree.

Oftentimes is the opposite of sometimes. I think its a charming word. If you don't like it, then don't use it."

Well, if "oftentimes" had an opposite, which it doesn't since it is not a real word, it would be "nevertimes". Thank you for proving that redundant and unintelligent thinkers like to use this non-word.

Jakska said...

I should add...

Please picture yourself saying these two sentences, and tell me which you think sounds ridiculous.

a) "I never say "oftentimes"
b) "I nevertimes say "oftentimes"
c) "I oftentimes say "oftentimes"
d) "I oftentimes say "nevertimes"

I think we can all agree that the ONLY option that is correct, and does not sound ridiculous is option a.

Jakska said...

Correction: 4 statements.

mj said...

The opposite of "never" is "always". So what about "alwaystimes?" :D

Anonymous said...

I think the opposite of "oftentimes" would be "seldomtimes" and both sound ridiculous to me. Saying "often" or "seldom" alone conveys that you are referring to "times" that something would occur. Conversely, you cannot say "some" and convey the same meaning as "sometimes." I find it difficult to accept the message of a speaker who uses "oftentimes," particularly when they repeat it several times throughout the speech.

mj said...

Seldomtimes is just really odd, not just because of that compilation but because I rarely (or "seldom") hear "seldom" here in the US.

Good point about "some"--I never thought about that.

me said...

I say 'oftentimes' allows you to use the same sentence structure as 'sometimes' while conveying the same meaning as 'often'. For example:

1. We often find ourselves in bad situations.
2. Oftentimes we find ourselves in bad situations.

Also, because 'oftentimes' is pulled out front, it allows for what some would call a better speech word. "Oftentimes... we find ourselves in bad situation."

mj said...

I didn't think of the sentence structure angle--interesting, but I'm still not a fan of the word.

antony said...

"oftentimes" is actually a shortened version of "often at times."

mj said...

Really? I didn't know that, but then again, I haven't researched it :D

court said...

I think perhaps the bigger problem here is that you hear it too often. ANY word repeated incessently would get annoying. When a speaker (or writer) falls back on a formula phrase like "oftentimes" ... well naturally anyone who already finds it awkward would dislike it.

However I don't think that using it is wrong. It's a way to use "often" in a different grammatical sense. It's a different form of "often," if you will. It is similar to "sometimes," and really, I don't think that you cna replace "oftentimes" with "often" in most senses ... or at least not in the sense that I use it. I would have to rearrange the sentence, which leads me to believe that it is an entirely different form of the word.

Ironically, I found this debate while trying to figure out if "oftentimes" is the proper spelling, in order to use it in an assignment. I think I'll avoid it altogether, just to be safe.

Anonymous said...

So uh, I'm here about 2 years too late, but I accidently stumbled upon this blog. "Oftentimes" is one word because it is derived from the word "ofttimes" from old poetry. "Often" and "ofttimes" are derived from the same base word, "oft". Ofttimes or oftentimes aren't redundent, nor are they different from "often" at all; "often" and "oftentimes" mean the exact same thing and are said the exact same way.

tipsi said...

I think i like the word. It has got that old English charm!!;-)Like when you say me thinks...

mj said...

Court: yes, it's another way to say "often" but it *has* replaced often, it seems. I even heard it today.

Anonymous: two years is not too late--this post still seems to be active :D

tipsi: I don't see it as charm, especially not English because it seems to be used more in the US. "Me thinks" is more interesting because it's based on linguistic history.

Natalie said...

"Oftentimes" doesn't mean anything it is just made up. It is a prime example of Americanisms creeping in and ruining the English language!

mj said...

Some folks think it's a British expression.

Michael said...

Im from Britain and I have never heard the word used, or at least not that I can recall.
I think you can use often in its place regardless of the structure of your sentence:
Often, I think about whether "oftentimes" is a real word
or
I often think about whether oftentimes is a real word.
So in my opinion either is grammatically correct. Also it has very little relation to "some", as often and never are expressions of frequency to start with whereas some is an expression of frequency, hence the need to add "times" when expressing a frequency.

mj said...

If you haven't heard it in the UK, then I wonder if it's an American term. At least it seems common in the southern part of the US.

Anonymous said...

Discovered your blog while googling oftentimes today. Great blog! My first thought is that adding times to often is redundant, it should just be often.

mj said...

I agree--and thanks for visiting and for the compliment.

Anonymous said...

Hey, if you want to find the source (IMO) it's old English - try Googling "+oftentimes +Shakespeare" and you will get plenty of hits.

It's not something you hear in regular use in the UK, but I have heard it used (mainly) by American commentators on TV.

Another example of Colonial nostalgia is "gotten", which is fine in "forgotten", but sounds odd (old) to a UK ear.

Does anyone know if there are there similar oddities arising from the preservation of language in French Canadian and Afrikaans, due to the early settlers wanted to restrict change in their language?

mj said...

That's weird that it could've come from Shakespeare but the Brits don't use it as much as Americans (except for me). I thought Brits say "gotten" as in "I could've gotten dinner for you."

Anonymous said...

I believe it is a matter of syntax. It is up to the author/speaker/individual to decide if/when to use the word oftentimes.

mj said...

It's a matter of syntax and style.

fosley said...

I'm also about 2 years late to the party, and I also found this article looking for the correct spelling.

Often and seldom are opposites, as are always and never. The opposite of sometimes would be manytimes, though it's usually spelled as two words, methinks.

While I've always considered the word normal, after reading the arguments presented here I agree it's redundant. I also always used the term "hot water heater" until someone pointed out that hot water doesn't need to be heated. So I think I'll try culling this word from my vocabulary, unless I'm going for quaint or folksy.

Thanks for the enlightening discussion!

mj said...

Thanks for agreeing and for visiting--I'm sure this post will be here for years to come :D

Anonymous said...

And, here we go again. Quite honestly, I do not see what all the hullabaloo us over this word. Yes, "oftentimes" is correct, and yes, it is one word. If you find it redundant, don't use it. But that does not mean it is an "incorrect" or "unintelligent" word. Why do we say half the phrases or words we do in English? Seriously, look it up in the dictionary and then see how "uneducated" we "oftentimes" people are. ;)

mj said...

It's not unintelligent or incorrect, but it's redundant and is still used a lot today, almost like a fad.

Anonymous said...

I view it as orginating from what some might call "redneck areas". I asked some friends and colleagues and they tended to agree...

It sounds like something someone chewing a peice of hay might say as they lean against a gate counting their pigs.

It is not a UK word, although I can see why some people in the U.S. might be persuaded to think it is.

I personally think it hints at a low I.Q. or "OK, here comes the patronising statement... brace yourself!".

I actually object to the word and it's recent popularity, although I'm not 100% sure why! I think for the reasons above mostly.

mj said...

Are you British or Canadian (based on your spelling of "patronising"? I wonder if "often times" originated in the southern US.

Anonymous said...

I am loving this debate. I am taking a Modern American Usage class at Brigham Young University and I think my professor would love this blog. FYI, looking around in reliable usage dictionaries, often vs. oftentimes isn't even addressed, so more power to the oftentimes users. Also, to imply that someone is more educated or more "correct" than the next person just through the use of "oftentimes" seems a little pretentious. And hey, if us "oftentimes" users are wrong, so was Shakespeare (see King Lear, Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and other plays) Anyone out there dare to take on The Bard??

mj said...

When I originally did the post, I didn't know that Shakespeare used that word.

Feel free to show this blog to your professor, too :D

Anonymous said...

Often times is a ridiculous word formation used by those who probably say "as per..." or speak of "home-alone" children. It drives me crazy and smacks of laziness. The correct word to use, for any Americans reading this, is a perfectly good one... FREQUENTLY!

katie said...

Some of you guys need to learn to use a dictionary. "Oftentimes" is one word and has been in pretty much constant use since the 14th century. Grammatically, it is not interchangeable with "often," though they mean the same thing. If your only bone to pick - and it seems as if it is, indeed, your only bone - is that you don't like the word, I fail to see why you do not also object to the word "often" and shoot for forcing everyone to use the term "frequently" instead.

katie said...

...And I see by the comment above mine (I only read most of the way through before posting) that some of you word nazis think that's the way to go.

mj said...

Does "often times" come from "oft times"? If we look at it that way, it makes sense, but otherwise it's redundant.

Piercan said...

Oftentime(s) is incorrect:
often is an adverb and it just
means that; frequently.
Oftentimes cannot be calqued on
sometimes. "Some" is an adjective
modifying different nouns
(some apples, some people, some
time = sometimes). Often cannot be
used with a noun; you do not say
"Often days - often weeks - often
months" -- although some people might
try it some day, and if it gets
repeated often enough, it might catch
on !

Richard Powell said...

I think of it like this.

There's a scale from 1 to 10. 1 is 'never' and 10 is 'always'. Maybe 'sometimes' is a 7 whilst 8 'often times' is an 8.

I think the above is fact.

howlyn said...

For whatever reason, 'oftentimes' has annoyed me in the past couple of years, too. Thinking it was redundant and/or a regional idiom, I looked it up. It is neither. It is correct English, and has been around since the 14th century. sigh. i really hate being wrong.

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:
of•ten•times (ôfn-tmz, ôftn-, fn-, ftn-) also oft•times (ôftmz, f-)
adv. Frequently; repeatedly.

also, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oftentimes
Main Entry: of•ten•times
Pronunciation: \-ˌtīmz\
Variant(s): or oft•times \ˈȯf(t)-ˌtīmz\
Function: adverb
Date: 14th century
: often, repeatedly

mj said...

Thanks for the info!

joo(likemoo)leeahh said...

oftentimes FTW! Often is an annoying word. It feels harsh and sharp. Try saying it. Of-ten. I cut my tongue just saying the word. Oftentimes. It softens the word. It makes it cozy, like a grandfather telling his grandchild about 'back in the day.' Don't be haters. Don't be that guy that hates on words just because they have an extra syllable or two.

mj said...

That's if you pronounce the "t" in "often". I don't pronounce it--it's "offen" for me. Maybe "oftentimes" is used more where you live in the south. I've only lived in the north :D

Lynne P. Alexander Hollingsworth said...

I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise up when I hear the so-called word "oftentimes"! It is misuse and annoying to me. " Often" or "frequently" are better words to use. I think this usage has come from grammatical laziness and lack of education in the schools. As in "almost always"... well is it always, or often? or "often always". Common usage doesn't make it correct or literate.

Lynne P. Alexander Hollingsworth said...

@howlyn Thanks for the information of the word being in the dictionary, and yet, like you, the word still annoys me as being redundant in some way. Sometimes we should try to choose words for their ability to best express the idea--concise--precise..descriptive. For me, the word "oftentimes" just doesn't fill that niche. I am still annoyed or irked by the use of it. "I often find myself doing this" is so much better to my eye and ear than "oftentimes I find myself doing this".. I oftentimes find myself cringing at the use of the too frequently utilized word!!! : )

mj said...

Do people in Canada say "oftentimes" often, or at all? I saw your bio--I love Toronto :)

Brandon said...

Oftentimes is a word! I don't use it often but it can be used in place of the word "often"only sometimes. I could not say, "I don't use it oftentimes." But a perfect example where the word works well would be in this statement:

"Oftentimes received with great affection, war heros in the past were honored and respected."

It is almost the same as "frequently" and "commonly" but in this sentence both those words seem funny. And oftenly isn't a word! Oftentimes feels more appropriate for a statement about the past. Frequently and commonly also make is seem that war heros are common. If you think there would be a better way to write the sentence above give it a try.

In the end it's a matter of stylistic preference. Most of the time I wouldn't choose it but sometimes it is the perfect word for a sentence. Just because a word isn't common doesn't mean it doesn't belong in peoples vocabulary. It just means you shouldn't overuse it!

anonymous said...

“And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.” William Shakespeare quotes (English Dramatist, Playwright and Poet, ...

Who dares to tell Shakespeare that oftentimes does not exist?

Thomas said...

Couple of ideas:

1. The fact that Shakespeare used a word, expression, etc. does not automatically make it correct.

2. As stated above, "often" is an adverb and "times" is a noun. Adverbs do not modify nouns. You cannot say "often chairs" or "quickly times".

3. What's most confusing to me is that "oftentimes" is supposedly the correct usage. Does that mean that if we just make compound words out of mismatched pairs, its legal?