"minutes" as notes taken at a meeting

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

"minutes" as notes taken at a meeting

Post by JANE DOErell » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:01 pm

When did "minutes" come to mean the notes taken at a meeting?

I'm assuming that 'minute' 1/60 and 'minute' chopped small are older.

Re: "minutes" as notes taken at a meeting

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:57 pm

Jane, Originally, MINUTES was a rough draft of a document or letter; a note or memorandum giving instructions to an agent. Later it became a record or brief summary of events or transactions; specifically (usually in plural) the record of the proceedings at a meeting of an assembly, society, committee, etc. The sense of the ‘minutes of a meeting’ developed directly from Latin minuta possibly short for minuta scriptura, ‘draft in small writing.’ This designation presumably distinguished the draft from the full and final copy of the document. (Oxford English Dictionary and The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories)

The OED's earliest example of the original meaning of the word MINUTES as described above (not the 1/60th of a degree meaning) is from 1443. In the list of quotes they provide – it’s a combined list of the older meaning and the newer – it is difficult to say exactly when the ‘minutes of a meeting’ sense was first used, but I would say the first unambiguous example is from circa 1710. However, other meanings (not referring specifically to the minutes of a meeting) continued to be used into the 18th and 19th centuries:
<circa 1710“To him are added in the House of Commons also scribes or secretaryes which record and take minutes also.”—Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary in Diary (1888) of C. Fiennes, page 276>

<1741 “It was his custom to keep the minutes or rough draught of all his pleadings.”—The history of the Life of M. T. Cicero, I. vi. page 511>

<1776 “That such curious communications . . . be extracted from the Minutes of the Society, and formed into an Historical Memoir.”—in Archæology (1789), Vol. 9, page 365>

<1851 “These are the minutes of my conversation with His Majesty, as I noted them down shortly afterwards.”—Bill-Sticking in Household Words [[a weekly journal]] by Charles Dickens, 22 March, page 605/2>
(quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary)

Note: For those curious as to what bill-sticking means in the 1851 quote, it is the act of sticking bills – that is, posters/notices/fliers/handbill – up to advertise or give notice of some event, product, proclamation, etc. (see Dickens’ BILL-STICKING) where he used it in his book The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)).

In his DICTIONARY OF SLANG AND UNCONVENTIONAL ENGLISH Eric Partridge lists the following:

BILL-STICKING “. . . was how the officers nicknamed the distribution of copies of Lord Roberts' proclamation calling on the Boers to lay down their arms and sign a promise not to continue the war.”—War's Brighter Side (1901) by Julian Ralph, page 100 (army: South African War, 1899-1902) [[Partridge turned out to have given an interesting example, but not the earliest in print example, which might or might not have been Dickens' 1841 use in the Old Curiosity Shop.]]

Ken – October 13, 2010

Re: "minutes" as notes taken at a meeting

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:28 am

.. of course there is that classic bit of grafitti steming from bill sticking or as we know it bill posting .. the original prohibition to stop bills being stuck on the wall was posted as >>


.. underneath some wit had written >>>


.. if you look here you can see an example ..

WoZ who has always claimed he is innocent
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Post Reply