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"time out of mind" 1189

Posted by Lewis on June 02, 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?

There is a time before which "the mind of man runneth not to the contrary" - which was due to the need to start at some point of legal certainty. I had a feeling that the date was 1189 and have just checked it.

According to the rather dusty volume from my colleague's shelf : Strouds Judicial Dictionary 2nd edition 1903 (1913 reprint)

"Time out of mind ...Richard the First ...Time immemorial or the time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary"...whole period of King Richard's reign...Presciption Act 1832"

Amazing that I could remember that!


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