As mentioned in this question, I know that "many a year" is literary and equivalent to "many years".

But I stumbled upon this phrase:

'For many's a year now,' he said, 'we've been running a source inside the police. [...]'

I suppose it has the the same meaning as above. But why is structured like this? What does that 's mean here?

  • It's "many a year", not "many's a year". You can also use the phrase "many's the year", but it's more formal and literary. The more usual phrase is "many years (For many years now, we've been........). – Khan Jan 7 '17 at 8:53

This is an example of English vernacular. It sounds like a "rural" dialect of some kind, although without more dialogue I can't specify from where, exactly. As you guess, it means the same as "for many years now".

Similar example:

"Many's the time I done tried to get him to open up and talk about it, but he never did."

Because it's a dialect, I wouldn't recommend using it unless you were trying to imitate someone who talked that way naturally.

  • Is "I done tried" correct in your answer? I think it shoud be have instead of done. – Khan Jan 7 '17 at 8:44
  • I understand. But I'm still curious about apostrophe s. Is it the abbreviation of "is" as "Many is the time" or is it something else? – Mahm00d Jan 7 '17 at 10:53
  • @Khan again, vernacular. It's a common structure in certain parts of the United States. There's a famous comedian of yesteryear named Andy Griffith, here is a recording of him explaining the play "Hamlet" which (if you can understand it) you might find funny as the humor is all about this country man explaining an English classic. – Andrew Jan 7 '17 at 15:01
  • For example, he says "I went to see a play right here lately, it was one of them classical plays. And it was wrote by a fella named 'William Shakespeare' that lived over here in the old country here a while back. And it's a play, it's called 'Hamlet' and it was named after this young boy Hamlet that appeared in the play. And it was pretty good, except that they don't speak as good a English as we do." – Andrew Jan 7 '17 at 15:04
  • @Mahm00d I suppose it might be a contraction of "many is the time" but I don't really know for sure. – Andrew Jan 7 '17 at 15:05

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