24/7 ALL CATCHPHRASE, ALL THE TIME
Chicago Tribune October 20, 2000
Author: Marja Mills, Tribune Staff Writer.
Chicago Sports Final
has slang that barges its way into pop culture. Think "yuppie"
from the 1980s. Traveling at warp speed, it went from amusing little word
to cultural force
derogatory label for brie-eating strivers captured the times. And that,
say language sleuths who study these things, might be the secret of
Maybe you remember the first time you heard it. It took a moment to catch the reference. 24/7? Oh, right. 24/7, as in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
A way to say "all the time," but hipper. Younger. More urgent.
(Quicker to write too. Just three lean numerals and a slash; none of those cumbersome, old-fashioned letters.)
Now, appropriately enough in this rush-rush, hyper-wired world, 24/7 is everywhere, all the time. Or at least it can seem that way.
There it is on the Web. Businesses called 24/7 Media, 24/7 Technologies, even 24-7wrestling.com, news for wrestling fans.
Ameritrade's pitch, in a current TV ad, is, "We respond 24/7."
all self-respecting dot.coms promise to deliver 24/7. E-mail them anytime,
any day, a.m., p.m. Go ahead. Fire off your order, your question, your
And woe to
them if they aren't. Those legions of yuppies want what they want when
they want it. And they want it now. That's the beauty, and the tyranny,
is on the bookshelves too. New this month: "CNBC 24/7 Trading: Around
the Clock, Around the World." That's a business book in a hurry,
from a cable
the shelves this month is the paperback version of last year's "24/7:
Living It Up and Doubling Down in the New Las Vegas," one writer's
is, prominently, on television, on ads, on sitcoms, on dramas. The title
of a recent six-part ABC News series? "Hopkins 24/7," a crisp
designation for a
Or how about
this snippet of dialogue from a recent episode of the HBO show "Arliss,":
high-priced sports agent Arliss Michaels promises a prospective client
ago, presidential candidate Al Gore put a playful twist on 24/7 on "The
Late Show with David Letterman." Borrowing the format of Letterman's
for the first time, 24/7 is in the American Heritage Dictionary, to wit,
the fourth edition, which was published last month, updating the previous
"Many more new words are coined than we can put in the dictionary," said Joseph Pickett, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary.
and his colleagues knew 24/7 was in wide enough circulation to go in the
revised edition. "When it starts to be used in these big institutional
What Pickett and his cohorts had to think harder about was whether to write it out or keep it to those three slim numbers with a slash.
on the numbers. "Numerals is an unusual thing but we've had a couple
of them," Pickett said. "401(k)" won a place in the dictionary.
So did "411,"
24/7 has its variations, including "24/seven," "24/7/365" and "24-7." But 24/7 rules.
question to be resolved is why it caught on at all. It isn't one of those
words that spring up by necessity to describe a new invention, a new technology.
of the mysteries of language is why this term got picked up by everybody
and not some other terms," he said. "Some just stay in slang.
There is no one who
But in truth, 24/7 means more than old stalwarts such as "continuously." Like "yuppie," 24/7 evokes a particular, modern mentality.
a word of the times, there's no question of that," Pickett said.
"We live in a very, very fast-paced society in which work has kind
of blended into free time.
figuring out why some words are embraced is identifying where they originated.
Pickett said 24/7 probably grew out of what linguists call
and whenever it started, the term began bouncing all over pop culture
in recent years. The Internet, the essence of 24/7, proved a powerful
"It's a good example of a slang term that originated in a corner of our society and was adopted by the broader culture," Pickett said.
stardom comes at a price, even for slang. It gets overexposed. 24/7 is
starting to feel that heat, even as wordsmiths predict it will be one
of those elite
the term was a shoo-in for a Michigan college's semi-serious annual list
of pop cliches to be axed: "Words Banished from the Queen's English
around the country wrote letters and e-mailed Lake Superior State University
to nominate 24/7 for the Jan. 1, 2000 list. They vented their frustration
"24/7 is designed to make stressed people feel even more stressed," Californian Kate Rabe Forgach wrote in her nomination.
it sounds somewhat biblical, 24/7 refers instead to consumer demand for
full service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said, "something
Copyright 2000, Chicago Tribune