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'Back in a jiffy'

Posted by R. Berg on March 21, 2001

In Reply to: 'Back in a jiffy' posted by Bruce Kahl on March 20, 2001

: : Does anyone know where 'back in a jiffy' originates from? I heard it on Kenan and Kel this morning and I have been pondering ever since.

: Webster has it as origin unknown dating back to 1790 or so.
: There is a french word, "vif", which means "sharp" but I think that is pushing it a bit.

For "jiffy" even the highly authoritative Oxford English Dictionary says "Origin unascertained." The earliest use it gives is from Munchhausen's Travels : "In six jiffies I found myself and all my retinue . . . at the rock of Gibralter [sic]."

It had never before occurred to me that jiffies could accumulate. People usually speak of one at a time.