I almost can’t believe I’m writing on this topic, but I just can’t stand it any longer. I have twice read people’s descriptions of their hobbies as pasttimes (and that was before Googling “past times” in a search for images for this post). I looked this one up just to make sure I am not missing something obvious. If there was any lapse on my part, it was shared by the AH, the NI2, and no, I didn’t even bother with the OED.
Then I remembered having browsed in a charming store by the name of Past Times in Cambridge, England (it’s a chain; the shop pictured right is the shop on Fife Road, Kingston-upon-Thames). They offer a range of wares on themes from Celtic (distant past) to the 1960s (more recent past). If I still celebrated Christmas, this would be one-stop shopping for me. It’s gorgeous stuff, definitely in the category of eye candy, but not a hobby.
In an effort to be helpful, the Cap’n suggested that the meaning of pasttime should be “late” as in, “The flight will be arriving pasttime.” Makes sense to me. But it’s still not a hobby, and definitely not a compound word.
The correct English word for a hobby is a pastime. This is a compound word combining the words pass and time, i.e. something one does in order to pass the time. By this token, if someone wants to misspell the word, he or she should do so by doubling the s, not the t.
When in doubt about how to spell a word like this, think a moment about its origins; this can often help one arrive at the correct spelling. Occasionally, the English language strays (unintentionally, I’m sure) into the realm of logic. Enjoy it when it does.