New York minute

A New York minute is an instant. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.

The Dictionary of American Regional English has a response to a 1967 questionnaire from Texas that uses the phrase, although the term probably did not get started in Texas, rather it was just first recorded there. It is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers’ lives. A New Yorker does in an instant what someone elsewhere would take a minute to do.

And there is this from the Washington Post of 20 April 1927:

The New York Minute.
Baltimore Sun: Yale’s world-round reunion by radio on Wednesday will show what New York is. The speech of President Angell at noon in New York, put on the air for loyal listeners wherever they may be, will reach Honolulu at 6 a.m. Wednesday and Tokyo at 2 a.m. Thursday. Twenty hours difference! A few brief minutes of time at New York thus become nearly a whole day when spread around the earth. If that doesn’t prove the intensity of life in the metropolis, what does?

This early citation is in a somewhat different sense and is probably a one-off coining of the term that is unrelated to current usage.

The term has a mildly derogatory tinge to it; although New Yorkers are probably proud of the characteristic and would forgive your using it with a simple fuggedaboutit!

(Source: Dictionary of American Regional English; Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)

Powered by ExpressionEngine
Copyright 1997-2019, by David Wilton