N. Y. minute

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Sat Feb 23 21:36:54 UTC 2008

On Sat, Feb 23, 2008 at 02:16:52PM -0500, Laurence Horn wrote:
> --which makes it clear that President Angell had nothing to do with
> the "coining", and raises doubt (as does the bracketing) as to
> whether the headline writer really deserves credit for it either,
> given the gap between the 1927 entry and the first unbracketed one:
> 1954 Galveston (Texas) News 15 Aug. 22/5 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.
> I can't remember what that asterisk means in the OED, but it does
> seem as though this 1954 usage is continuous with that in 1967 and
> current ones.

Normally the asterisk is used on the first non-bracketed
example of a compound. It's a holdover from the time when all
of the quotations for compounds were presented in a single
quotation paragraph, so the asterisk helps you to see the
start of each new set of quotations.

In this case it's accidental, as _New York minute_ is in the
regular section, not a compounds section. (It must originally
have been in a compounds block but got moved.) I've put in a
note to have it removed.

In any case, it's a visual signifier only, it doesn't mean
anything about sense, acceptability, or anything else (as in
HDAS, where an asterisk before the date of a quotation signals
a non-American source).

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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