the seventh word herd

New York minute — a very short time: a moment, an instant, a flash, a nanosecond. 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 seems to have originated in Texas around 1967 and refers to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers’ lives.


Shape up or ship out — said as an ultimatum to someone to improve their behavior or face being made to leave. It originated in the US Navy in World War II as an admonition to a sailor that he must either come up to the Navy’s standards or be transferred–perhaps to the brig! Returning World War II veterans brought the idiom home to civilian life.


A coon’s age — a very long time. “Coon” means raccoon. Although a wild raccoon usually lives only 2 or 3 years, this American phrase arose in the 1800s from the mistaken belief that these animals are long-lived. “Coon” has also been used as a derogatory term for country bumpkins, and as a racial slur. The phrase maybe related to the old English expression, “in a crow’s age.” 


Loaded for bear — ready for anything, prepared to fight and win. The phrase originated in North America in the 1800s, when men hunted with muskets, and you could adjust the amount of gunpowder to affect the strength of the charge. Enough gunpowder meant you were capable of killing the most ferocious and hardest to kill predator on the continent.


Instead of a coon’s age, just give me a New York minute to ship out, loaded for bear.

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