PDA

View Full Version : "A minute" used colloquially to describe a very long period of time-ever heard it?


Ogre
03-22-2011, 12:15 PM
Have you ever heard of or read about "a minute" being used as an informal understatement to suggest a long period of time?

Examples:

"Hey Ray! It's good to see you. It's been a minute."
"I'll call you when it's done. It's going to take a minute."

This has always struck me as being a distinct Southernism, and perhaps an Alabama-ism. Hell, it might even be more specific than that, since I grew up hearing it in Montgomery, then moved away to various points in and out of Alabama, and never heard it. A few years ago, I moved back to Birmingham, and suddenly I'm hearing it in common usage again.

Other possible factors: is it a Southern black thing? I'm white, but grew up in a black neighborhood, and never went to a school that was less than 50% black. I live in a very racially mixed community now, and now that I think about it, I usually hear it from my black neighbors (but hell, not always.)

Zsofia
03-22-2011, 12:40 PM
I'm from South Carolina and I've heard it but I don't believe it's native to here. Certainly nothing I would ever say. I've heard it from white people.

Jackmannii
03-22-2011, 12:56 PM
I don't think its a Southernism, at least not the literary equivalent (in which seconds morph into "minutes", something that's always bugged me).

"Struck by the logic of my response, Henry sat silent for some minutes."

Yo Henry! Wake up! The plot's dragging here while you take 5 minutes to pick up your end of the dialogue. Maybe I should go out for coffee and you can fill me in when I get back?

Blaster Master
03-22-2011, 01:06 PM
I live in Northern Virginia and I've heard it before, but not until relatively recently, maybe the last 5-6 years. I'm pretty sure when I first heard it, I was confused because I'm used to it being used to imply a short period of time and I had to get an explanation.

Ogre
03-22-2011, 01:08 PM
I don't think its a Southernism, at least not the literary equivalent (in which seconds morph into "minutes", something that's always bugged me).

"Struck by the logic of my response, Henry sat silent for some minutes."

Yo Henry! Wake up! The plot's dragging here while you take 5 minutes to pick up your end of the dialogue. Maybe I should go out for coffee and you can fill me in when I get back?No, the way I've always heard it (and what makes it so distinctive to my ears) is "a minute". Not "a few minutes", or any sort of plural. It always seems to be "a minute". It's usually delivered in a slightly lackadaisical understated tone, too. In my first above example, there'd maybe be a bit of a tongue-in-cheek grin to go along with it. In the second, there'd be a slightly apologetic shrug.

I dunno. I agree that your examples might have the same general spirit, but I suppose I'm after the specific regionalism.

Ludovic
03-22-2011, 01:08 PM
"Hey Ray! It's good to see you. It's been a minute."
"I'll call you when it's done. It's going to take a minute."
White Floridian here, and I've never heard the first expression. I hear the second one pretty often as an understatement (or as just an indeterminate period of time, most likely longer than a minute but sometimes in that general ballpark.)

eldowan
03-22-2011, 01:09 PM
I'm in Houston, TX.

Over the past couple of years I've gone from not hearing the term 'a minute' as anything other than a minute to being somewhat commonly used to indicate an arbitrary length of time.

Just last night, in fact, a friend of mine was introducing me to his friend. He said that he's 'known him a minute' and we've known each other for a couple of years now.

BlakeTyner
03-22-2011, 01:25 PM
Northeast Texas representative here...

Use of "a minute" to mean a long period of time has been around at least since I was in high school (1995-1999.) My first exposure to it was from my black friends, but I use it, my wife uses it, and most white people I know would at least know what it means. So it may be that it started in AAVE and is migrating.

If you have known someone for a really long time, you might say "oh I've known Bizzle for a hot minute."

Actually, thinking about it, there is always a little more emphasis on the word "minute" when used this way--I guess as a means to distinguish it from a literal minute.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
03-22-2011, 01:29 PM
SC: I've never heard an example like the first one. The second one, definitely.

ZipperJJ
03-22-2011, 01:30 PM
I hadn't heard it until I made a friend who uses it. He's from the same place as me (suburban Ohio) but his family is from Akron-by-way-of-West-Virginia.

I don't know that I know anyone else that uses it. But I use it from time to time now.

Snooooopy
03-22-2011, 01:48 PM
A guy I work with is the first person I've heard who uses "a minute" in the same way one might use "a coon's age" or "many moons" as opposed to a far smaller indeterminate length of time.

Rigamarole
03-22-2011, 01:51 PM
Definitely a black thing. And white people who want to be black.

BrotherCadfael
03-22-2011, 01:54 PM
So the minister is talking to God, and he asks Him, "God, a hundred years must be like a minute to you, is that right?"

And God said, "Yes, that's right."

And the minister then asked, "And a million dollars is like a penny to you, is that right?"

And God said, "yes, that's right."

So the minister asked, "Can you give me a penny?"

And God replied, "Yes, I will. In a minute."

Ogre
03-22-2011, 01:56 PM
Definitely a black thing. And white people who want to be black.I'm not really sure that's fair. I may not be the absolute best one to evaluate this, because of my background, but I definitely heard it while growing up (1970's and 80's), and it was used biracially. Maybe it has spread in the way you described, but I'm not sure it originated that way. In other words, I reserve the right to use it with impunity, because, by God, it dates back to childhood for me, and has no particular racial context. :)

Eleanor of Aquitaine
03-22-2011, 02:00 PM
I'm in Alabama - Huntsville now, but I grew up near Auburn - and I've never heard this at all.

Ogre
03-22-2011, 02:03 PM
I'm in Alabama - Huntsville now, but I grew up near Auburn - and I've never heard this at all.Come to think of it, I don't think I ever heard it when I lived in Auburn either (or Huntsville, for that matter). Strange, since Auburn is only 50 miles away from Montgomery.

tumbleddown
03-22-2011, 02:10 PM
I'm in Pennsylvania and I've heard it, purely as a part of AAVE. Not only have I heard "it's been a minute" to mean "an undetermined lengthy period of time" I've heard "it's been a pretty minute" to mean an even longer period of time.

Musicat
03-22-2011, 02:14 PM
Never heard that, southern, northern or western. (Eastern, dunno.) Sounds like a typical slang perversion of language, where bad means good.

Lacunae Matata
03-22-2011, 02:55 PM
Coincidentally, my 13-year-old son used that phrase in that way recently, and my husband asked that he not do so. Apparently, the only context that Mr. M. had heard it used before (and apparently, it's been that way for a long time) has been in jails/prisons - usually from inmates discussing sentences. Maybe that's where it got started?

Ogre
03-22-2011, 03:36 PM
Coincidentally, my 13-year-old son used that phrase in that way recently, and my husband asked that he not do so. Apparently, the only context that Mr. M. had heard it used before (and apparently, it's been that way for a long time) has been in jails/prisons - usually from inmates discussing sentences. Maybe that's where it got started?Hmmm...maybe so. I've never heard it in that context (but that doesn't mean anything).

Brynda
03-22-2011, 03:46 PM
I have heard it, almost exclusively from blacks or very rural Southerners.

Silvorange
03-22-2011, 09:10 PM
In the past few years I have been hearing it used that way. I live in Kentucky and I have only heard it from black people.

Lucretia
03-22-2011, 09:16 PM
I first heard it in 2008, from Army folks while deployed. Since then, I've heard it many times, always from military people (to be fair, that's who I spend most of my time around). Anyway, that usage seems to be fairly well used in the military.

Peremensoe
03-22-2011, 09:47 PM
I don't think its a Southernism, at least not the literary equivalent (in which seconds morph into "minutes", something that's always bugged me).

"Struck by the logic of my response, Henry sat silent for some minutes."

That's the opposite of what Ogre is asking about, I think. In your example "some minutes" is used to mean a noticeable delay, but not literally several minutes. The OP is about "a minute" being used to mean a time period that is really much longer than one minute. The first is emphasis by exaggeration, the second is emphasis by understatement. The latter is more Southern, unless somebody is trying to be funny.

Anyway, certainly I'm familiar with the usage. Distinctions between Southern and black are often pretty fuzzy.

pendgwen
03-22-2011, 10:02 PM
I'm in Newark, NJ and I encounter it only with black patients, most likely older, most likely female. Never heard it before moving here. It makes taking an accurate history a total pain.

"Ma'am, how long have you been having trouble breathing?"
"For a good minute now."

When I finally nail them down on the time course a minute can mean anything from a couple of days to a couple of years.

Kyla
03-22-2011, 10:59 PM
Never heard this usage. I'm a white girl from California.

Don't Call Me Shirley
03-23-2011, 10:46 AM
I heard it about an hour ago, in Indiana, to refer to a time period of six years.

clarkstar
03-23-2011, 10:47 AM
seems to be a relatively new thing for the hip hop culture

Ogre
03-23-2011, 10:56 AM
Data point: the earliest entry for "a minute" (that conforms exactly to the definition I'm using) on Urban Dictionary was from 2002, so it's been around for a minute. :)

Mean Mr. Mustard
03-23-2011, 11:58 AM
I've heard it, but only from black folks, and only recently.

Such as:

"I haven't been to Chicago in a minute."

Very weird phrasing.


mmm

ZipperJJ
03-23-2011, 12:11 PM
I hadn't heard it until I made a friend who uses it. He's from the same place as me (suburban Ohio) but his family is from Akron-by-way-of-West-Virginia.

I don't know that I know anyone else that uses it. But I use it from time to time now.

Just to add to the current discussion...the friend mentioned above is very white and very not-into-hanging-with-black-people if you know what I mean. So he didn't pick it up from black friends or black family.

Now I'm super curious as to where he got it. Too bad we totally had a fight last month and no longer speak to each other. lol

Alma
03-23-2011, 04:13 PM
"Hey Ray! It's good to see you. It's been a minute."
"I'll call you when it's done. It's going to take a minute."
I don't think I've ever heard the first example, but I use the second one all the time, usually when I'm frustrated with a person who wants something too quickly. "Calm down, it'll be a minute." I'm firmly midwestern, a pasty white woman who grew up in a small town with exactly zero black people.

It never struck me as strange before, but I use also "minute" to indicate a short period of time, like most people do. "I'll be a minute" can mean either a short time or a long time--I guess it's in the inflection. I'm not sure I've heard anyone else use the term since I've lived in Chicago, regardless of ethnicity. I'll have to pay attention, but it might be another one of those things that brand me as not-from-here.

MeanOldLady
03-23-2011, 05:19 PM
From LA, no family from the South, and I hear this all the time. This is a black thing? Interesting.

norinew
03-23-2011, 05:23 PM
I've heard it a couple of times (born and raised in Baltimore, MD suburb; currently residing in north-central WV). The only time I ever use it in that context is if, for instance, my hubby would call and ask me to research something for him, and I might reply with something like "Sure, but it'll take a minute", meaning, of course, he has to be patient.

Best Topics: baby xylophone songs johnathan silverman korean drinking age oxygenated fluorocarbon eyes only reddest natural hair outgoing mail mailbox oh black betty eshield radiant barrier kitchen air conditioner celebrity asshole sia voice crack similar vein pigeon poison homemade get carded increase contrast pdf dealdash commercial actress sawbuck money apple bonsai patri archie comics patri archie clean polyurethane brush lowes 4x4x10 pelvis fracture elderly naval fiction board gout pain scale old yoyos hay bale pricing xzilon mink oil unknown comic effects of not treating lactose intolerance ceiling fan makes scraping noise grow your own coca plants selling walnut trees for lumber are medium toothbrushes bad for you walgreens ear wax candle sebaceous cyst scar treatment non nude tween models cia cannot operate domestically did coyote ever catch roadrunner how to call in sick to work script is fancy feast good for kittens a laffer curve for smokes battle for wesnoth walkthrough how long does pepto bismol take to work bob marley only once in a lifetime what's a dude ranch how to make high explosive rod stewart someone like you father sacrifices son to save train radio tuner card for pc is it legal to destroy money washcloth bar in shower difference between word and wordpad what does cartman say in german what kind of cars do doctors drive floss then brush or vice versa what is separate maintenance income clorox outdoor bleach percent putting out fire with gasoline is it ones or one's 30 pieces of silver worth