Old 09-06-2008, 12:25 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 881
what does "a little while" mean to you?

i was on the phone with someone who said "i'll call you back in a little while." how long until a little while is no longer little?
Old 09-06-2008, 12:30 AM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Cloud Cuckoo Land
Posts: 28,043
Er, a little while? I suppose you need to go on a case-by-case basis. Callbacks take hours. Researching means days. Researching hot potatoes nobody wants to touch means never.

I've been hitting some of the latter lately.
Old 09-06-2008, 12:39 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Greenville SC
Posts: 1,588
I don't say "a little while" if I think it's going to take more than 15-20 minutes. Otherwise, I say "a couple of hours."
Old 09-06-2008, 12:51 AM
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Indiana
Posts: 5,838
"A little while" = "never" to my then-teenaged son who agreed to _______(insert chore of choice here) in a little while.
Old 09-06-2008, 01:02 AM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 9,119
I'd say you should expect a call back in 3-4 hours, depending on the time of day.
Old 09-06-2008, 01:19 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: San Diego, CA (UCSD)
Posts: 10,038
4 hours at the most.
Old 09-06-2008, 01:59 AM
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 2,528
I don't expect anything. "A little while" means "if I feel like it."
Old 09-06-2008, 02:18 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Posts: 11,386
If the return call is to give some basic information (e.g. someone's phone number), then I'd expect it within half an hour.

If there is no specific purpose for the return call, then I'd expect it any time within the next few days.
Old 09-06-2008, 03:26 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: W. WA
Posts: 19
It would depend on the context. Calling back just to chat would be sometime in the next day or two.
Old 09-06-2008, 07:12 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Je suis Ikea.
Posts: 25,224
it usually means about 15 minutes longer to me than it does to Mrs Piper, particularly when she has asked me to do something.

much unhappiness has resulted over the years from this slight mismatch in chronological perspective
Old 09-06-2008, 07:16 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 542
A little while generally means never to me. Its a way for parents to put off doing something for their children that they really don't want to do.
Old 09-06-2008, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Commerce, Ga
Posts: 37
A little while has always been up to a few hours for me. Never seen it used to mean in a day or two.
Old 09-06-2008, 10:49 AM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 17
Anywhere from 15 minutes to never, I'd say.
Old 09-06-2008, 12:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: 40:28:39N 74:37:38W
Posts: 919
I always thought it was anywhere from about 10 minutes to maybe an hour. Anything after that is "an hour or so", "a couple of hours", "later today", or my favorite, "as soon as I can" (which could mean never ;x).

In related news, when I say I'll think about it, it means we both know I'm not going to do it, so you can stop asking now.
Old 09-06-2008, 12:32 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 6,204
When referencing a future point in time, I'd expect it to be something around a few hours, and would tolerate a day or two (i.e. I won't be mad if a call supposed to come in 'a little while' comes tomorrow, but I won't be happy either).
But when applied to the past, 'a little while ago' is somewhere between a minute ago and the dawn of time itself, mostly because I'm always having trouble putting my memories into their proper chronological context, so I'll tell stories starting with 'A little while ago, while I was in the US', and only notice afterwards that it's been ten years since then.
Old 09-06-2008, 12:38 PM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Ainran
Posts: 11,449
Anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours.
Old 09-06-2008, 05:01 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 36,006
I'd expect a few hours.

On a slightly related topic, here in Amish Country, there's a Pennsylvania Dutch-originated usage of the phrase "a while" that STILL, after 5 years, brings me up short.

supervenusfreak and members of his family (and just...people...) will use "a while" to mean "right now". To me, "a while" is a nonspecific measure of time, not a specific moment IN time. "Why don't you feed the cats a while?" does not mean "Why don't you spend some time feeding the cats?", it means "Why don't you feed the cats right now?"

Those were some really confusing arguments the first few months...

Last edited by jayjay; 09-06-2008 at 05:01 PM.
Old 09-06-2008, 05:09 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 36,997
To me it means, "I have no fucking idea when, and maybe never".
Old 09-07-2008, 02:52 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 1,667
Sooner than "in the fullness of time" or "in the sweet bye and bye."

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