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PREPOSITIONS. On for "of" possessively

On, being thus closely connected with "of," was frequently used even for the possessive "of," particularly in rapid speech before a contracted pronoun.

“One on's ears.

So Coriol. i. 3. 72; ii. 1. 202.

“The middle on's face.

“Two on's daughters.” Ib. i. 4. 114.

“Two on's.

“My profit on't.

“You lie out on't, sir.

; Lear, iv. 1. 52. “He shall hear on't.” B. J. E. in &c.

“I am glad on't.

In the two last examples on may perhaps be explained as meaning "concerning," without reference to "of."

The explanation of this change of "of" to "on" appears to be as follows. "Of" when rapidly pronounced before a consonant became "o'."

“Body o' me.

“O' nights.

Hence the o' became the habitual representative of "of" in colloquial language, just as "a-" became the representative of "on" or "an." But when o' came before a vowel, what was to be done? Just as the "a-" was obliged to recur to its old form "an" before a vowel or mute h (compare Hamlet, i. 4. 19, "to stand an-end," and see 24), so before a vowel o' was forced to assume a euphonic n. (Compare the Greek custom.)

And even when the pronoun is not contracted, we find in Coriol. iv. 5. 174, the modern vulgarism--

Worth six on him.

“To break the pate on thee.

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