times, the verb

Heard on the radio: “and times that by [some number]“, where that refers to a number. This is the plural N times (in expressions like 6 times 10) converted to a verb meaning ‘multiply’. About 50 years old, this conversion supplies a short, English-based substitute for the longer, Latin-derived verb. In so doing, it swallows up the historical plural suffix within times, making it now just the final consonant in the verb times.

It’s in OED3 (March 2012):

trans. Math. colloq. To multiply (a number). Also occas. intr.

[1886   Cambr. Rev. 2 Dec. 125/2   You can on wi' your slippers, up wi' your legs, talk on, go for'ard, counting, twicing and three timesing.]

1962   Techn. Educ. Mar. 28   If I put down two noughts, would it ‘times’ it by a hundred?

1997   Guardian 11 Feb. ii. 6/1   All through the years of being six, seven and eight, identically pony-tailed, they..skipped, sang, acted, painted, took-away and timesed with undifferentiated enthusiasm. [intransitive]

2001   Smash Hits 28 Nov. 73/2   If you’re interested in pyrotechnics..you’ll need a science degree… Think about everything you learn in science at school and times it by ten—it’s great fun. [extended sense of 'multiply']

The 1886 cite looks like the conversion of quoted material, but the rest have times ‘multiply’ — including the verb in the PST in the 1997 cite: timesed.

Other finds, in various forms:

Theres like 600 people here right? Times that by 2… i can’t even do the maths (link) [BSE]

OK = 1 star. Times That By Five And You Have Yourself A Fair Rating (link) [BSE]

the easiest formula I was looking into using is taking my cost and my overhead and timesing that by 2.5?? (link) [PRP]

I counted down. I counted how many times “Spam” could fit on my screen, and then counted how many screens worth of “Spam” there was. Timesed the number of “Spams per screen” by Screens, and timesed that by 24. (link) [PST]

I would like to Offset ROWS by a formula that looks at the current month …, timeses that by 25, then … (link) [PRS]

Times your pleasure by 2, times your fun by 2.

11 Responses to “times, the verb”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Reminds me a bit of versing, from versus — start with “A (operator) B” and then make a verb out of the operator.

  2. Mark Says:

    This is very common in South Africa. Probably what I’d say by default actually.

  3. H. S. Gudnason Says:

    I remember hearing “times tables” for “multiplication tables” in the U.S. Midwest during the mid to late 1950s. I’m also relatively sure my teachers, in stepping through a problem with multiple steps, would say something like, “Add x and y to get z, then times that by w.”

  4. Erik Zyman Says:

    I seem to vaguely remember that when I was in kindergarten or first grade (1995-1996 or thereabouts), I had at least one classmate who corrected the verb times to multiply, suggesting that he had heard a similar correction from an adult (or older kid). I’d imagine that this prescriptive attitude is still around.

  5. Mike Pope Says:

    I do homework tutoring at the local library, and as Erik Zyman suggests, “times” is frequently used among younger students in place of “multiply.” Also “take away” for “subtract.” On rare occasions I’ll hear “plus” for “add.” (“Do I plus that?”) “Divide” does not seem to have a non-Latinized version. Perhaps because the operation in question tends to be practiced among kids who have become comfortable with the more formal terms — ?

    • Erik Zyman Says:

      That reminds me. Take away is used not only for subtract but also for the preposition minus: Four take away two is two. I actually find that sentence perfectly well formed even now (albeit reminiscent of childhood).

  6. the ridger Says:

    While I don’t recall ever hearing “times that by 2″, I certainly learned the multipication tables as “2 times 2 is 4, 3 times 2 is 6″, etc, so it was immediately comprehensible. I kind of like it. (“Take away” is certainly familiar – and remember Tom Lehrer? You can’t take 3 from 2, 2 is less than 3, so you look at the 4 in the tens place…)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Maybe I should have made this clearer: things like “3 times 2 is 6″ originally had the plural N times; but it was open to reinterpretation as having a V instead.

  7. the ridger Says:

    No, I understood that “6 times” has a noun; I just meant that because “6 times 2″ is what we said, not “6 times twice”, the use of “times that by 2″ was immediately comprehensible.

    On the other hand, why is it “times 2″ instead of “twice” or “by 2″ or something? I never gave that any thought at all.

  8. the ridger Says:

    Just heard a Coldwell Banker commercial that told you how to calculate the value of a home, starting with “take the smell of pancakes made on a Sunday morning and times that by the sound of kids laughing…”

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