In a New York minute

Hello everybody. I’m listening to an audio book and have just heard this phrase: in a New York minute. From the context I figure it must mean something like very fast. Now, what is the origin of this idiom? Maybe a minute in New York passes by faster than in other cities because New York is so busy? Has anyone of you ever been to New York? Does the time really go by faster there?

Here is the most highly approved definition from the Urban Dictionary (which has 31 reader-generated definitions for this phrase):

"A New York minute is an instant. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.

It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967. It is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers’ lives. A New Yorker does in an instant what a Texan would take a minute to do.

I’ll have that ready for you in a New York Minute".

Interesting expression!

This sounds so like Madrid – the guy (because, let’s face it, it’s usually a guy!) who blows his horn at you the nanosecond the light changes to green :roll: . Although, luckily, the ‘horn syndrome’ seems to have somewhat subsided now!

New York is very busy, people walking everywhere doing all sorts of things all the time. At 7am, the streets are packed. So the implication is yes, that it goes faster. It can feel like it sometimes, in my opinion, everything zooming by.

actually, there’s a famous song - Don Henley wrote “In a New York Minute” quite a few years ago - it describes a number of things happening so quickly and how it all just rushes over the average person.

But the expression has been around much longer than this song.

I lived and worked for a few years in the NYC area. My impression was that New Yorkers are in fact “different”. :smiley:
Everything’s always full. Everything’s fast. The highways are NEVER empty — not even at 3 a.m. And people are obsessed with time. And then there’s that special NY accent… :lol:

I grew up about a two and a half hours (by car) from NYC. Nevertheless, it was a bit like moving to a foreign country when my company transferred me to the area. :lol:


Hello Amy, thank you so much for your additional information the New York minute, it’s good for me to learn all about these time expressions:-).
Speaking of time expressions, I had a discussion with my American colleague when I said “Let’s meet in one and a half hour”. She said it has to be “Let’s meet in an hour and a half”. I checked Google and got lots of pages with “one and a half hour” and my colleague said that this might a British expression. Is that true? Also, she says that the word colleague is used in British English more than in Amerian English and that colleague sounds a bit like you are referring to a trade union member rather than a co-worker (she said ‘co-worker’ is usually used in US English). You are a US business English teacher. Would you confirm all of this?
Thanks in advance,

Hi Nicole :smiley:

Here are a few late night answers:

  • Personally, I would prefer to say “an hour and a half”. And “90 minutes” also wouldn’t be unusual. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say “one and a half hours” (Please note: without the ‘s’ on hours, the phrase is wrong!)

  • The word ‘colleaugue’ is not unknown in the U.S., but I agree with your American friend: ‘co-worker’ sounds much more “American” (and therefore more “normal” :wink:) to me. I hardly ever used the word ‘colleague’ before I began teaching English. And the only reason I use it fairly regularly nowadays is because I’ve seen it in so many British course books … and because so many of my students write “college” instead of “colleague”.


In addition to this, there’s the expression country mile. It’s much more than a mile. I found that when people in the country give you directions, and they say, “Turn right and it’s a mile down the road,” you can expect that “mile” to be three or four miles.