real time = 'a point or period of time in actuality'; (also adj.)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 14:32:45 UTC 2010

Though it seems "obvious" in retrospect, "real time" is, as Larry notes, an
innovation.  The customary idioms in the 1988 contexts would have been "(in)
reality" and "actual."

My hunch is that this apparently computer-inspired "real time" didn't hit
the mainstream till the '80s, when home computing did.  Dan's 1972 "real
time" means the same thing but looks to have been inspired by mere punning
on "reel time."

We' re just considering terminology, not the concept of flashback versus the
narrative present.


On Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 6:33 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: real time = 'a point or period of time in actuality';
> (also
>              adj.)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 5:38 PM -0600 8/10/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >1988 Nancy Anisfield in W. J. Searle, ed. _Search and Clear_ (Bowling
> Green,
> >O.: Bowling Green U. P.) 58: [T]he enacted twice, once in real
> >time (42 pages into the novel) and once in Paul Berlin's imagination.
> >_Ibid._ 59: The novel is divided into real time...flashbacks...and
> >imagination....[M]emory and imagination...are as important and powerful as
> >"real time" thought.
> >
> >Not a surprise but kind of early. I think.
> >
> >JL
> A classic retronym ("Back in *our* day, son, real time was all we
> had")--wonder if the first uses were found not in book reviews but in
> the context of television and movies or discussions thereof.
> LH
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