Jiffy/in a jiffy
Posted: 17 July 2018 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  933
Joined  2013-10-14

According to the OED the origin of the word is unascertained. It seems that the earliest recorded use of “in a jiffy” was first recorded in 1780 from The Town and Country magazine. This would predate OED’s earliest citation of 1785. Green’s Dictionary of Slang has a 1767 entry for the variant jiffin. There are a few other sources for 1767 entries.

Is there more recent information or other earlier sources?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 July 2018 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  214
Joined  2007-02-13

No help to your question, but a sidetrack…

A function in Commodore Basic on the PET returned a time value “jiffie”, approximately 1/60th of a second.

A long time ago but not long enough to help :-)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 July 2018 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  307
Joined  2007-02-16

In his book, ‘The Accidental Dictionary’, Paul Anthony Jones devotes two-and-a-half pages (pp 129/131) to the various theories about the origin of Jiffy ranging from 1785 through 1859. None of which has been authoritatively supported. With regard to how long a Jiffy is, Jones relates an interesting story.  ‘In the early 1900s, an American physicist Gilbert Newton Lewis (known for coining the word photon) seized upon the word jiffy and gave it a standard scientific definition of 33.3564 picoseconds. One jiffy, Lewis explained, was the amount of time it takes light to travel one centimetre, a meaning he introduced in his research in the 1920s. So next time someone says they’ll do something in a jiffy, remind them that that gives them precisely 33 trillionths of a second to respond......’

Should anyone be interested:
ISBN: 978-1-78396-297-6,. First published in 2016.

My typo caught by a languagehat member! Thanks.

[ Edited: 24 July 2018 05:50 AM by Skibberoo ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 July 2018 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6713
Joined  2007-01-03

Someone (IIRC it was Johnny Carson) once defined a New York minute as the time it takes between a traffic light turning green and the car behind you honking for you to go.

In non-chronological units, a millihelen is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 July 2018 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  307
Joined  2007-02-16

Not to be confused with a Troy Wait!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 July 2018 05:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4702
Joined  2007-01-29

An interesting comment from Stephen Goranson in the LH thread: 

Here’s a slight antedating of “in a jiffy.” It may (or may not) be worth noting that this is sea-related and that some later uses are sailor-related. 1765. The Disappointed Coxcomb. A Comedy in Five Acts, by Bartholomew Bourgeois, (via ECCO) page 28 [women want his rings]:

MISS HARTSHORN: But Seaweed, won’t you give your old acquaintance no bauble among the rest–what is this topaz too? (Pointing to one of his rings.

SEAWEED: That is an amethyst, my gull, or a petrified plum, which you will——–Blast ’em, I see I shall be unrigg’d in a jiffy, if I don’t close haul (Aside.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 July 2018 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3133
Joined  2007-01-30

It’s interesting how words which started off meaning instantly eventually stretch themselves out and become in a while. One such term is anon, much used for instance by tapsters a few centuries back.

“Some ale, boy” “Anon, anon, Sir!” (Meaning at once.) Ten minutes later. “Where’s my ale, boy?” “Anon, anon, Sir!” Shakespeare has a lot of fun with this in one of the Henry IV plays.

OED anon, adv.

4.

a. strictly, Straightway, at once, forthwith, instantly. Obs. (exc. when mod. writers have tried to revive the strict sense.)

It’s an 1884 entry so the comment about writers trying to revive the strict sense may well be inapplicable now.

Other similar words: Presently = some time whenever but certainly not the present. Straight away = not straight away. At once = presently. I’m sure there are others.

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ Nutmeg in football      X or Y, plural? ››