How Long is a Cotton Picking Minute – (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Any time more than 1 minute

The English language has many varieties of phrases of speech, and some may even be used to describe something inaccurately or accurately at that as well. One such term of a phrase is “cotton-picking minute,” which has roots leading all the way back to the 17th century.

The phrase is generally used in place of a cuss word, and usually conveys annoyance or anger with something. The phrase also has a somewhat rocky history and is considered a racist slur by many people due to the connection with slaves and cotton picking. In 1953 Bugs Bunny was perhaps one of the first to use the phrase “cotton-picking minute” in a public setting.

Since the use in Bugs Bunny, the phrase has increasingly become less popular and is often considered to be offensive. However, some may wonder just how long a cotton-picking minute actually is?

How Long Is A Cotton Picking Minute?

A cotton picking minute is not an officially recognized measurement of time, however, depending on who you ask, there are two acceptable variations of just how long a cotton-picking minute actually is. For instance, depending on the source, a cotton-picking minute may be:

First Option: The first socially accepted answer to how long a cotton-picking minute is that it refers to any amount of time longer than one minute. An exaggerated amount of time that was, or seemed to be, much longer than just a minute.

Second Option: The second socially accepted answer to how long a cotton-picking minute is that it refers to the time of 99 seconds. This is due to its roots in slave cotton-picking fields, and their days lasting on average 64% longer than an average person due to their tendency of being over-worked.

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When you average this, we combine an additional 39 seconds on top of the 60 seconds that is required in an average minute, to get our calculated result of 99 seconds.

In summary:

OptionTime
First accepted answerAny time longer than 1 minute
Second accepted answer99 seconds

It is important to remember that usually, this phrase is used in anger, and is not a socially accepted method of time. It is, however a phrase that is usually used to express anger, frustration, or trouble. Because of the phrase roots, it should only be used around those who find it acceptable to do so.

Why Cotton Picking Minute is That Long?

The term has roots in slavery, where workers would pick cotton in cotton fields. It started as a combination of a racial slur “you cotton picking…” and was later used as a description of time. The phrase morphed from a pure slur to meaning an exaggerated amount of time, or any amount of time that lasted longer than expected.

The scientific method of calculating how long a cotton-picking minute lasts is based upon the average length of time which a cotton field worker was awake for. On average, their day lasted about 64% longer, and when the calculations are done, we’re left to believe that this would equal to 39 more seconds on top of an average minute.

Both explanations of why a cotton-picking minute lasts as long as it does are generally socially accepted. With the first option being more widely understood and known about.

References

https://repository.arizona.edu/bitstream/handle/10150/566590/AZU_TD_BOX289_E9791_1975_361.pdf?sequence=1

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