"real-time" = ?(of a message) instantaneous; "palfrey" = medieval warhorse; charger

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jul 10 02:08:14 UTC 2009

On Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 8:53 PM, Mark Mandel<thnidu at gmail.com> wrote:
> Jonathan Lighter:
>> > This a.m. on CNN somebody mentioned that you can now get "real-time Tweets
>> > on your Blackberry."  Sounds like the start of the Canterbury Tales.
> Ben Zimmer:
>> Seems to fit the definition of "real-time" given in many current
>> dictionaries, such as NOAD2:
>> ---
>> _real-time_ (Computing) of or relating to a system in which input data
>> is processed within milliseconds so that it is available virtually
>> immediately as feedback, e.g., in a missile guidance or airline
>> booking system: _real-time signal processing_.
> JL:
>> Close, Ben, but today's usage attached it to the *message* and not to the
>> system itself.
> I'd say the definition is inadequate. If your Blackberry is delivering
> messages to you as they are posted, without delay, then you are
> receiving them in real time, and "getting real-time Tweets on your
> Blackberry" is not problematic at all.

Agreed -- transferring "real-time" from the system itself to the
output of the system is no big stretch. OED3 has a 1960 cite with
"‘real time’ forecasts of the weather" and a 1997 cite with "real-time
on-line events". So in these cases "real-time X" = 'X transmitted in
real time'.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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