New York minute

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New York minute

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:23 am

I read the following in the Wall Street Journal:
<2008 “Last week, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain said his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, hadn't sought earmarks or special-interest spending from Congress, presenting her as a fiscal conservative. But state records show Gov. Palin has asked U.S. taxpayers to fund $453 million in specific Alaska projects over the past two years. . . . .‘If they're worthy projects they can be authorized and appropriated in a New York minute,’ he explained on his campaign bus earlier this year, before Gov. Palin joined the ticket.”—Wall Street Journal, 15 September>
I’m unfamiliar with the expression NEW YORK MINUTE, but as the Democrats have been saying about Sen. McCain, perhaps I’m ‘out of touch.’ It has evidently been around since the 1950s, it was a 1989 Don Henley Eagle’s song (see quote below), a 2004 movie, . . . And then there are those pesky million and a half or so Google hits which include the names of everything from racehorses, to up-to-the-minute newsletters, newspaper columns, blogs, trendy websites . . . all suggesting that I just have not been keeping up. Damn! Another one that slipped through the cracks.

NEW YORK MINUTE [[also New York second, city second]] noun. colloquial (chiefly U.S.) a very short period of time; a moment, an instant. (Oxford English Dictionary)
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Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang provides the origin, “the city’s non-stop energy.” But that really doesn’t nail things down very well for someone from Mars. I would explain that because of the alleged frenzied pace of life in New York City where everyone is supposedly impatient and in a big rush, time gets compressed, so that a ‘minute’ there could take about 30 seconds (see 1954 quote below) but most often quite a bit less (see 1984 quote below).

The Random House Historical Dictionary of Slang provides a first apearance in print of 1967 along with a quote from that year, while the The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang claims that it dates from the U.S. in 1948 and then knuckleheadedly provides as its earliest quote one from 1984 – but that’s not a mistake. It’s part of some numskull philosophy, if they actually have one, which I have yet to figure out. I mean, 1948 isn’t that long ago that it might not have been worthwhile to include this first quote if they actually have it – or were they fibbing? And elsewhere they do provide quotes that are earlier than that. What’s with these people? But the OED cuts the bullshit and provides the 1954 earliest in print quote in their 2008 update. They also give a 1927 quote in brackets (see below), for a different sense, which Cassell’s probably used to come up with their mistaken earliest in print date of ‘1920s’ for our above definition.

It seems clear to me that New York minute was coined and spoken by foreigners (like Texans and other such folks) and that New Yorkers had no hand in inventing or using it. I was there in the 1950s (actually the 1940s) and left in the early 1970s and can vouch for the fact that New York minute never passed the lips of any New Yorker I ever heard. And I would also aver that attributing the origin of the phrase to New Yorkers is akin to blaming French fries on the French. And, of course, the above-mentioned and totally unfounded perception of outsiders that New Yorkers are always in a hurry and do everything fast, from walking to talking to chewing gum is total hogwash! But I never could understand why outsiders said I spoke fast. (<;)
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[1927 “The New York minute . . . The speech of President Angell at noon in New York . . . will reach Honolulu at 6 a. m. Wednesday and Tokyo at 2 a. m. Thursday . . . A few brief minutes of time at New York thus become nearly a whole day when spread around the earth.”—Washington Post, 20 April, page 6] [[not used in the same sense as above definition]]

<1954 “Betty Jean Bird of the Pirate Club has what she claims the smallest French poodle in the nation. . . It's no bigger than a New York minute and that's only thirty seconds.”—Galveston News (Texas), 15 August, page 22/5>

<1967 “It won’t take any longer than . . . [a] New York minute.”—in Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), Vol. 2, page 651>

<1970 “His greatest asset is that when a receiver pops open, he can hit him in a New York second.”— Galveston Daily News (Texas). 2 Septenber, page 16>

<1974 “He'd vote the CRC [[?]] version in a New York minute if he can just get initiative, referendum and recall added.”—M. Ivins in Washington Post, 20 January, C3/3>

<1984 “[[a New York Minute]] Equates to a nanosecond, or that infinitesimal blink of time in New York after the traffic light turns green and the ol’ boy behind you honks his horn.”—Texas Crude by Ken Weaver, page 116>

<1987 “Some of the motherfuckers will rat you out in a New York minute.”—Firefight by J. Ferrandino, page 88>

<1989 “In a New York Minute / Everything can change / In a New York Minute / Things can get pretty strange/ In a New York Minute / Everything can change / In a New York Minute”—(chorus lyrics) “New York Minute by Don Henley of the Eagles>

<1989 “If he was pregnant, he’d have an abortion in a New York minute.”—Donahue (NBC-TV)>

<1993 “They need to understand that sometimes the risk is just too high, and that if we make such a loan, the regulators will be on our backs in a city minute.”— ABA Banking Journal, 1 August>

<1994 “Keenan wasn't out of there in a New York minute, he was out of there in a New York second! The only thing that ever got to St. Louis faster was the flood.”—Washington Post, 21 July>

<1997 “Not fielding a bunt properly can make a 3-2 game 10-3 in a New York second, forget a New York minute.”—Kansas City Star (Missouri), 14 September>

<2000 “We can't do that because . . . somebody on the Hill would leak it to the papers in a New York minute.”—The Bear and the Dragon by Tom Clancy, page 620>

<2001 “Its police seemed always to be around when you needed them, its firemen on call in a New York second, its resources bountiful.”—USA Today, 23 September>

<2004 “All gone in a New York minute.”—The People (London). 21 March>

<2004 “She had BPD [[Biliopancreatic Diversion (obesity treatment/surgery)]], lost more than 100 pounds and now leads a BPD support group. . . . ‘I'd do it again in a CITY MINUTE, I really would.’”—KMBC-TV (Kansas City, Missouri), 26 May>

<2006 “The adage goes that in a New York minute anything can change. Not, apparently, the Pirates' fortunes. After a 6-0 loss to the Mets at Shea Stadium on Thursday night, the Pirates are 8-22.”—Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania), 2 May>

<2006 “‘I'd return in a New York second if I could.’ Pause. ‘That's a New York second, not a New York minute.’”—Los Angles Times, 23 June>

<2007 “ ‘We planned on being here for the rest of our life,’ Oman said. Yet if the rail complex is built, ‘we'd be gone in a New York second,’ he added.”—Denver Post (Colorado), 19 June>

<2008 “There should have been twelve cop cars there in a New York minute, he said.”—Wisconsin State Journal (Madison), 9 May>

(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Ken G –September 22, 2008
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Re: New York minute

Post by Shelley » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:30 pm

Ken, while I instinctively knew that a New York minute was an abbreviated version of the usual 60 seconds, I also thought of it as being a minute absolutely jam-packed, filled-to-the-gills, and overthetop stuffed with lights, sounds, action, smells, chaos, people, stimulation -- so much that you can't take it sensory overload. This impression was formed by a civic-minded news feature that used to run years ago, announcing various things going on around town over the weekend all in the space of a minute. It was called (one guess!) the "New York Minute". Its real meaning, though, is indisputable.
Last edited by Shelley on Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New York minute

Post by russcable » Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:46 pm

Ken Greenwald wrote: I’m unfamiliar with the expression NEW YORK MINUTE
...
I was there in the 1950s (actually the 1940s) and left in the early 1970s and can vouch for the fact that New York minute never passed the lips of any New Yorker I ever heard.
That you somehow managed to avoid hearing it in the last 30 something years outside New York lessens my confidence in your surety that you didn't hear it the prior 30 years in New York.
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Re: New York minute

Post by JANE DOErell » Wed Sep 24, 2008 10:16 pm

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-new1.htm is Quinion's discussion. I have have heard the phrase often on TV. Quinion's discussion comes close to my feel for what the expression means.
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Re: New York minute

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:47 am

Shelley wrote:while I instinctively knew that a New York minute was an abbreviated version of the usual 60 seconds, I also thought of it as being a minute absolutely jam-packed, filled-to-the-gills, and overthetop stuffed with lights, sounds, action, smells, chaos, people, stimulation -- so much that you can't take it sensory overload.
Very different to, "Mam, can I have a sandwich?"
"Yes, now in a minute."
Which is Wenglish, and can mean any time today, hopefully, and frankly the opposite of Shelley's description.
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Re: New York minute

Post by Phil White » Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:30 am

Bobinwales wrote:Which is Wenglish, and can mean any time today, hopefully, and frankly the opposite of Shelley's description.
Like "subito" uttered by an Italian waiter corresponds closely to "mañana" from a Spaniard.
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Re: New York minute

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:14 pm

If the Spaniard happened to be a high-ranking member of the Catholic church, some would regard it as mañana from heaven.

Which really pretty much says it all.
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Re: New York minute

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:52 pm

Russ, You doubt my failing memory? (<;)

But don’t let my last 30 years fool you. Pop culture is my weak point. I don’t watch recreational TV and have seen very few movies in recent years. And, as I suggested above, I’m probably out of touch and haven’t been keeping up on the pop front (I might be the last guy in America who has never watched Jay Leno, David Letterman, or that other guy with the big hair, although I have seen their pictures and read about them in magazines). I get all my news through the internet, magazines, newspapers and books. So, if the expression didn’t make an appearance in my reading sources or in conversation in my daily life in the last 30 years, I don’t know about it, and, as I said, it’s another one that slipped through the cracks.

But when it comes to New York City through the early 1970s I think I know from whence I speak. New York minute was not New York City lingo back then. Three immediate sources on this were my sister, brother-in-law, and step mother who between them have spent about 200 years living in NYC and environs and all of whom I happened to have spoken to yesterday (and none of whom are anything close to senile) – it was my step-mother’s 88th birthday and she still goes to work every day wheeling and dealing. I’ll admit that none of them are probably much up on pop culture, but I think they are certainly pretty good through the early 1970s. My sister and brother-in-law said that New York Minute was never a NYC expression as far as they knew and they didn’t even know what it meant. My step-mom, on the other hand, was born and raised in Arkansas, and lived in NYC from the mid 1940s until the early 1990s when she returned to Missouri to live, about an hour from the Arkansas town where she was born. She also said – and she’s one of those rare folks you meet now and then with an encyclopedic memory (Oh yes! Wasn’t it in July of 1948 that we met your dad after work at Broadway and 42nd street, had some Chinese food, and then went to the New York Paramount to see Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre followed by that great floor show with Sammy Davis, Jr. dancing with his dad and uncle Will) – that it was not an expression she ever recalled hearing in New York City, although she had in Missouri and knew what it meant.

But this is all anecdotal and I dug a bit deeper here than I had in my previous posting to get to some more solid information:

It was noted in the following 1989 quote that New York minute had the above meaning ‘especially for Southerners,’ which makes one wonder how popular it was among New Yorkers prior to the early 1970s:
<1989 “New York minute, which is a very quick one, especially to Southerners. ‘I could close this place in a New York minute’ (The Best Little Whore House in Texas) [[1982 film]]”—in Wicked Words by Rawson, page 291>
And it strikes me that New Yorkers would not necessarily all at once embrace this Southern expression just because some fraction of them heard it used in a in a movie and possibly elsewhere a few other times.

However, in my recent search, I did find that William Safire of the New York Times addressed the subject of New York minute on two occasions. Safire, was born (1929) and raised in NYC, has lived there most of the time since, and has written for the NYTimes since 1973 and still writes his On Language column there each Sunday, generally on current lingo, its use and etymology. And his ‘current’ goes back a long ways.

Here’s what he had to say on the expression New York Minute, as of five years ago, in one of his many books on words, phrases, and language:
<2003 “‘If we hurry, we can make the light.’ Only New Yorkers say that to one another. Other Americans say in their whitebreadese, ‘If we hurry, we can start crossing the street before the green light changes.’ (They are more literal and probably not in that much of a hurry, anyway). That is why they, and not New Yorkers, define split second as a New York minute.”—No Uncertain Terms by William Safire, page 205>
And here is what he said in, in part, in an earlier On Language column in 1986 on this very subject, titled In a New York Minute:
<1986 “In a New York Minute: The attorney general of Alabama, denied the Democratic nomination for governor, was furious. He denounced the people around his opponent as ‘a bunch of sleaze-bags—you can see that in a New York minute.’ . . . ‘If there was any hint of impropriety,’ a Dallas police official said, eschewing the subjunctive, was quoted as saying in 1980, ‘they'd be on us in a New York minute.’ . . . ‘Welcome to Houston,’ wrote Forbes magazine in 1983, ‘where lizard-skin boots go with pin stripes, and business is done quicker than a New York minute.’

The phrase—evidently a Southernism used with particular frequency in Texas—was given further national currency as the title song by Ronnie McDowell that made the country music top forty in 1985. The song contains a second example of a place name used as an attributive noun: ‘I'd make love to you in a New York minute and take my Texas time doing it.’ But what does in a New York minute mean?

Consider the speculation by Chris Dufresne, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times [[December 30, 1985, page SD_B10]], about a new tailback: ‘He plays the game as if lost in a New York minute. He zigs and zags much the way you would through Times Square at rush hour—darting, dashing, cursing. When he sees a linebacker, he just pretends he’s side-stepping a taxi.’

With this lead in hand, I conducted extensive field research to determine the nuances of meaning in this burgeoning Americanism. (What I did was go into the city room of the New York Times bureau in Washington and shout over the non-din of murmuring terminals: ‘How fast is a New York minute?’ This query was met with blank looks from all but deputy Washington editor Howell Raines, and Alabamian whose previous assignment was Atlanta bureau chief; Mr. Raines replied with a snap of his fingers: ‘Means that fast.’ That’s all I needed; I hate to go outside for field research.)

From those spoken words and written contexts, as well as extended talks with native speakers of Suthrin dialect, I define the phrase with final authority as ‘instantly without hesitation, and with overtones of freneticism; based on a derogation by Southerners of the supposed hectic pace in New York City.’”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For poetic justice and sectional retribution, your attention is called to Georgia credit card: the length of hose used to siphon gas out of somebody else’s tank. It can be done in a New York minute.”—On Language by William Safire in New York Times, 19 October, page 279
It seems to me from the above Safire quotes that this died-in-the-wool New Yorker didn’t have a clear idea, nor did anyone he questioned in the city room of the New York Times bureau in Washington in 1986 have a clue, except for one Southerner, as to what this expression meant. And if Safire was familiar with it and knew exactly what it meant, why in the world would he be writing this article trying to figure it out? He might have guessed and had a feel for what it meant, as Shelley said she did ‘instinctively’ above, but did he or Shelley recognize it as a common New York City expression whose definition they were perfectly familiar with?

So how probable is it that New York minute, with the above defiition, was popular in New York City prior to the early 1970s? I think, not very! In looking at the quotes I scrounged up for this topic, you will note that nearly all the earlier quotes are from Texas and the South (none form NYC), while Safire's later quote seems to have gone so far to imply that even in 2003 it was still ‘other Americans’ and not New Yorkers who defined New York minute as a split second. And even though there was an Eagles song and a movie (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) and possibly some TV shows where the expression was used in the 1980s, that still doesn’t necessarily make it a phrase that the average New Yorker embraced or was even that aware of in pre-early-1970s New York City.

Could it be that because the expression probably originated in Texas and may still be very popular there that you have a skewed perception that everyone in rest of the civilized world must be just as familiar with it as you are? And, I would note, for such a supposedly wildly popular phrase, it actually shows up in relatively few slang dictionaries.

I haven’t been to New York City in a while, and perhaps in the last 5 years (since Safire made his above 2003 New York Minute remark) New York City folks have suddenly taken a shine to using to the expression in the above defined Southern sense. And it is possible that this actually did gain currency there after the 2004 movie of that name was released (I have no idea how popular that movie was). So who knows, maybe even New Yorker City folks may now know, as Texans and others have long known, precisely what is meant by a New York minute and even – miracle of miracles – know what the heck a New York steak is.
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Ken – September 25, 2008
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Re: New York minute

Post by russcable » Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:47 pm

The "movie" you keep mentioning was based on a 1978 Broadway show that ran for 1,584 performances (i.e. for 4 years). It won Best Musical plus 5 other Tonys and 8 Drama Desk awards. A few New Yorkers might have seen it - probably more than saw the movie with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.

Heck, I even saw it on Broadway (in 1980)!
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Re: New York minute

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Sep 25, 2008 10:05 pm

Russ, So that then made it a household word?
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Ken - September 25, 2008
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Re: New York minute

Post by Shelley » Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:17 pm

russcable wrote:The "movie" you keep mentioning was based on a 1978 Broadway show that ran for 1,584 performances (i.e. for 4 years). It won Best Musical plus 5 other Tonys and 8 Drama Desk awards. A few New Yorkers might have seen it - probably more than saw the movie with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.

Heck, I even saw it on Broadway (in 1980)!
Well, shoot, russcable, so did I!

To add to the confusion, there is another movie actually titled "A New York Minute", the plot of which seems to support an interpretation of the phrase leaning more towards chaos rather than brevity. A synopsis is here:

Plot Summary
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Re: New York minute

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Oct 11, 2008 3:17 am

Shelley, I had mentioned the 2004 movie, New York Minute in the first paragraph of my original posting. And the review I had read at the time struck me as being consistent with the definition of the OED, Cassell’s, and Random House, ‘a short period of time,’ based on the idea of time compression as I discussed above. In reading your link, I again feel that the title of the movie refers to the same thing – the whole story, with a lot of stuff going on, all occurs in the course of a single day, and thus the New York minute (here they could have called it the ‘New York day,’ except that wasn’t a nifty established expression). Of course, chaos is often a natural accompaniment to trying to do too much in too short a period of time. But chaos does not necessarily imply a short period of time, a period of compressed time, whereas a New York minute does imply that as well as frenzy and possibly even chaos.
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Ken – October 10, 2008
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Re: New York minute

Post by taracot » Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:23 pm

Shelley wrote:
russcable wrote:The "movie" you keep mentioning was based on a 1978 Broadway show that ran for 1,584 performances (i.e. for 4 years). It won Best Musical plus 5 other Tonys and 8 Drama Desk awards. A few New Yorkers might have seen it - probably more than saw the movie with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.

Heck, I even saw it on Broadway (in 1980)!
Well, shoot, russcable, so did I!

To add to the confusion, there is another movie actually titled "A New York Minute", the plot of which seems to support an interpretation of the phrase leaning more towards chaos rather than brevity. A synopsis is here:

Plot SummaryBroadway Theater
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The movie that you are talking about is actually one of my daughters favorite movies. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were adorable in it!
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Re: New York minute

Post by mj99a » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:30 am

there is also a 1989 song " in a new york minute" by don henly.
first verse and chorus:
Harry got up
Dressed all in black
Went down to the station
And he never came back
They found his clothing
Scattered somewhere down the track
And he won't be down on Wall Street
in the morning
He had a home
The love of a girl
But men get lost sometimes
As years unfurl
One day he crossed some line
And he was too much in this world
But I guess it doesn't matter anymore

In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
Things can get pretty strange
In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
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Re: New York minute

Post by htroy » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:05 am

[quote="mj99a"]there is also a 1989 song " in a new york minute" by don henly.
first verse and chorus:
Harry got up
Dressed all in black
Went down to the station
And he never came back
They found his clothing
Scattered somewhere down the track
And he won't be down on Wall Street
in the morning
He had a home
The love of a girl
But men get lost sometimes
As years unfurl
One day he crossed some line
And he was too much in this world
But I guess it doesn't matter anymore

In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
Things can get pretty strange
In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute[/quote]
___________
What an amazing song!
I have to tell you...it puts a big smile on my face each and every time I hear it :)

H.Troy
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