[Ads-l] Precursor to a "New York Minute"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 2 20:17:35 EDT 2017


I found some evidence in support of my hunch about "York", as in "in a York minute", being a reference to Toronto and not New York City:


"Thus we call the capital of Upper Canada York, because there is a York in England; and as this metropolis is not of very great extent, and very likely never will be, it is termed Little York.  Mr. Gourlay, for political reasons, conceives it to be very properly named, and plays away on the subject with considerable humour.  A York shilling not being as large as a British one, tends also to detract from the importance of the place.  It is a saying with the Americans, when they set about doing any thing quickly, “that they will do it in a couple of York minutes,” time being even considered of less moment at Little York than elsewhere.

Toronto was the Indian name of this place, which means the “Hut by the Lake.”"

John Mactaggart, Three Years in Canada: an account of the actual state of the country in 1826-7-8, London, H. Colburn, 1829, Volume 2, page 359.

It is interesting that the expression did not necessarily mean "fast," but merely indefinite, although most examples I've seen seem to refer to something done quickly.

The expression survived after York was officially renamed Toronto in 1834.  Over time, it slowly morphed in to "New York Minute," although it is still interesting that the expression vanishes completely from the written record (as far as I can tell) from the middle of the 1910s until the early 1950s.





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From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, May 27, 2017 5:11 PM
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Subject: Re: Precursor to a "New York Minute"

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Subject:      Re: Precursor to a "New York Minute"
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In the early 19th Century -- maybe before, too -- New York City was
sometimes referred to as "York".  This isn't easy to document, but here's a
couple of passages from a minute booklet of humorous sketches and songs:

            New-York, Jan. 1, 1824.
            Got in York safe as a bee in a bucket, put old Brindle in Uncle
Josh's stable -- found all the folks well, except Aunt Polly most dead with
the small pox; hardly knew her, she looked so plaguey odd -- her face put
me in mind of an old fashioned cullender



"Hewlett at Home.=E2=80=9D
            Heard a great deal of talk since I've been in York 'bout the
African Theatre -- I and Harry went tother night -- good many white folks
there; Harry told me it was Hewlett's Benefit -- seen "Hewlett at Home" on
the bills; I guess he did'nt like to let folks know he was "at Home" before=
.

[The writer is a rube from Goshen, N. Y., visiting the big city and writing
letters home.]

Simon Snipe, *The Sports of New York, by Simon Snipe, Esq.; Containing A
Peep at the Grand Military Ball, =E2=80=9CHewlett at Home=E2=80=9D *[etc.,]=
  1824.  (The
only known copy of this is at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.)

GAT

On Sat, May 27, 2017 at 4:45 PM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Years ago Barry Popik traced the modern emergence of "New York Minute" to
> Texas in the early 1950s.
>
>
> A couple years ago, I found an early example from 1870, in a story about
> shooting a wildcat (a catamount) in the oil regions of Pennsylvania.
>
>
> It seemed as though the coincidence of the early example in an oil region
> and the emergence of the expression in the oil region of Texas 80 years
> later suggested a possible way the expression made it to Texas.
>
>
> However, there were isolated examples of the expression in 1872 Kansas an=
d
> 1908 Vermont, and a few other possible (yet ambiguous) examples.
>
>
> I wrote a blog post about it at the time.
>
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2014/11/wildcats-and-wildcatters-very-long.htm=
l
>
>
> I just ran across a possible precursor idiom - possibly with a slightly
> different meaning.
>
>
> The expression a "York minute" shows up as early as 1831, with several
> examples throughout the 1840s, '50s, ' 60s and '70s.
>
>
> An example from Buffalo, New York in 1860 suggests that a "York minute" i=
s
> a short period of time, but longer than an actual minute:
>
>
> [excerpt]
>
> "There is one portion of the day," as your correspondent very justly
> remarks, "which may, with propriety, be called the ladies' hour.  Just so=
.
> That "hour," however, is to the day, what the "York minute" is to the
> ordinary hour; viz: two hours and a half.
>
>
> Buffalo Commercial, November 24, 1860, page 3 (Newspapers.com).
>
>
> My initial inclination was to think that "York" refers to York, England,
> perhaps a sleepier town than London, where time isn't so precious or
> precise.
>
>
> But I am not so sure.  It might be American.  The earliest example of the
> expression I have found so far - 1831 - is from an English writer
> describing the scene at an American tavern.  He sets several apparently
> local Americanisms apart in quotations - including "York minute."  I am
> also not so sure that the "York minute" is always something more than a
> minute, as described in Buffalo in 1860.  Many of the early examples,
> including the earliest example, a "York minute" appears to be some brief
> moment of time - not as long as a minute:
>
>
> 1831 [excerpt]
>
> By the time they have all taken a "drink" or two a-piece, and swallowed a
> mouthful of water after it, you will hear "guessing" and "calculating"
> enough, undoubtedly, and something better, "I don't think!"  Be careful
> they do not tread on your toes at this time, and if you wish to retain a
> seat, do not get up from it even for a "York minute."
>
>
> Joseph Pickering, Inquiries of an Emigrant; Being the Narrative of an
> English Farmer from the year 1824 to 1830, London, E. Wilson, 1831, page =
93
> (HathiTrust).
>
>
> In 1873, a story about a Northwoods trapper shooting a panther appears to
> be a rewritten version of the 1870 Pennsylvania story with "New York
> Minute," but using "York minute"  instead:
>
>
> [excerpt]
>
> But no, he raised the old rifle and fired.  In one-fourth of a York
> minute, Bill Stewart's exact time for skinning a Montezuma bullhead, all
> the clothes upon him would not have made a bib for a china doll.
>
>
> Chicago Daily Tribune, January 5, 1873, page 2 (Newspapers.com).
>
>
> 1871
>
> [excerpt]
>
> Mrs. Matt Peel's Minstrels give their last concert in this city, for the
> present, at Touro Hall tonight.  If you have the blues, these darkies wil=
l
> shake them off in three York minutes.
>
>
> Hartford Courant, February 12 1861, page 2.
>
>
> For me, the big question is why was it a "York minute" and was it
> originally English.  The change from York to New York seems natural in th=
e
> US, but if it is American, why would it have been "York minute" in the
> first place, unless it was an old English expression that survived in the
> US.
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>



--=20
George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.

But when aroused at the Trump of Doom / Ye shall start, bold kings, from
your lowly tomb. . .
L. H. Sigourney, "Burial of Mazeen", Poems.  Boston, 1827, p. 112

The Trump of Doom -- affectionately (of course) also known as The Dunghill
Toadstool.  (Here's a picture of one.)
http://www.parliament.uk/worksofart/artwork/james-gillray/an-excrescence---=
a-fungus-alias-a-toadstool-upon-a-dunghill/3851

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