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Time out of mind, time immemorial

Posted by ESC on May 27, 2003

In Reply to: "Time out of mind" posted by Shae on May 27, 2003

: : Can anyone help me with an understanding and/or origin of this phrase?
: : Thanks.

: TIME IMMEMORIAL, TIME OUT OF MIND: Strictly speaking, 'time immemorial' is any time before 1199, this being the date set in 1275 as the time before which no one could remember, and therefore no legal cases could deal with events before that date. 'Time out of mind,' recorded from the fifteenth century, is just the plain English version of the same thing. Since the eighteenth century at least, 'time immemorial' has been used in much the same way as the 'Mists of time' and both expressions are now often used vaguely to mean little more than 'in the past.' Julia Cresswell, Penguin Dictionary of Clichés, 2000.

: I hadn't heard of this compulsory amnesia imposed in 1275 before. Does anybody know more about it?

My reference doesn't mention 1275.

TIME IMMEMORIAL, FROM - "Going way back; of ancient origin (sometimes said of things that aren't all that old but just seem to have been going on for a long time.) It's a rather elaborate way of describing something that predates living memory. In English law the term has meant beyond legal memory, meaning earlier than the reign of Richard I (1189-1199); the law decreed that certain kinds of actions could not be brought in relation to events antedating that reign. William Fulbecke's 'The Pandectes of the Law of Nations' speaks of 'making title by prescription and continuance of time immemoriall.'" From the "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

TIME OUT OF MIND - "A long time; something going back beyond living memory. The 'Rolls of Parliament' for 1414 record that the people of Lymington had asserted that since 'tyme oute of mynde.there were wont many diverse come.yn to the saide Havenes.'" From the "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).