When did kids...

…start using the qualifier “of all time” to describe current personalities and events? examples:

  1. michael jordan
  2. michael phelps

[could it be the first name?]

  1. the march 2011 earhtquake/tsunami off japan
  2. avatar’s total ticket sales
  3. woodstock
  4. live aid

or is it treacherous old men bent on manipulating the pliant youth?

since forever? I mean, one of the typical “failings” of youth is assuming that history started at the point you took an interest in something. On another message board, I read a post where some stupid kid claimed that Honda invented the Kammback design in the 1980s.

Let me get this straight.

You are asking when people started commonly describing record breaking events as being the greatest event of that type of all time?

If that is what you are asking then I’m guessing about 200 years ago. Once society got away from the idea that it was sacrilegious to call something the greatest of all time for fear of offending some figure in the Bible, then it became commonplace. Prior to that it was commonplace to describe a contemporary as “The greatest Hunter since Nimrod” or “the greatest general since Alexander”. At some stage after that the references to legendary characters disappeared. By 1900 it’s fairly common to refer to living or recently dead people as “the greatest of all time” or “the greatest in history”.

maybe not. when i was a kid, i remember only one media claim of a greatest ___ of all time and that was the georgia peach. may have been a reasonable assessment by the guiness book considering his records stood nearly half a century. but everyone i know raised eyebrows on that one.

muhammad ali was tauted as the greatest athlete of the 70s and people thought it reasonable. time magazine displayed analytical wisdom back then when it said tab thacker, at 450 pounds, was the heaviest american collegiate wrestler of all time since the governing body was about to limit competitors’ weight to 250 pounds. the guiness book mentioned a 7’7" finnish soldier as the tallest soldier of all time as no armed force is now likely to recruit anyone past 7’6". i found these assessments valid (how 'bout you?)

Well, at least, since that Moses guy said it in Deuteronomy 4:40.


excellent references.

and there lies the tragedy. i’m sure any elementary-schooled child can see the difference between superlatives on record, and absolute superlatives.

I think you might be misunderstanding the idiomatic use of “of all time”. It means “the greatest of all time from the creation of the universe up to this point”. It does not and never has meant “the greatest there ever will be”. Referring to Shakespeare as “the greatest playwright of all time” does not mean that he never *will *be surpassed, only that he never *has *been surpassed.

you might want to steer me towards an authority on that. because such a qualifier certainly covers past, present and future. but you may be right in that people have begun to re-define that expression. it cannot be confused with “an all-time record” because that qualifier is meant to cover historical highs. quite simply, “of all time” means an unsurpassable record.

tolkien in the sillmarilon was fond of superlatives but he was always careful in his time contexts, and if he would give a categorical statement, the narration was sure to reinforce that absolute.

for example, on the passing of feanor, “his spirit flew to the house of mandos and never again returned among the living, nor has his likeness been seen since. thus ended the mightiest of the noldor…”

No, it does not. Time in this universe is unidirectional, at least for meatbags, and humans have always known that. All time only extends to the present, by definition.

They haven’t begun to redefine it, it has always been defined that way.

For example from a basic Google search we find:

1895 “it is the first duty of those women who combat for right and liberty to unite in the fight against religious obscurity, against the powers of darkness and the suppression resting on the Church, that revolution of the mind for which the most elevated thinkers of all time have suffered…”

1869 “Against undertakings of this kind the voice of nature, the experience of all time, and in all nations, savage as well as civilised, raise their decided protest.”

1895 “The efforts made by such heads to prove and display the unity of history have resulted in just what he longed for; short treatises on general history which fix with sufficient accuracy the real landmarks of all time”

1899 “THE Merchant of Venice,” by its very title, claims connection with industrial
life. It presents the problems of industrial morality and the solution of these problems, as viewed by one of the greatest intellects of all time."

1858: “David Garrick, who exalted the Drama to the highest reach of fame—the greatest actor of all time, before or since… is honoured with a public funeral…”

And so on and so forth. It is quite clear that by the end of the last century, at the very latest, “of all time” meant “up to this point in time”. Unless you wish to argue that “the experience of all time” and the historical landmarks of all time, including the future, have already been laid out. IOW to adopt your position requires that an author in 1895 thought that humanity would cease having experiences after that date and that their would e no more historical landmarks.

Cite please!

I think that I know what *might *be confusing you. There is a passage in the Bible that refers to the wisdom of God as being “of all time”. Not the greatest of all time, just “of all time”. That usage of “of” was archaic 150 years ago and means “pertains to” or “is relevant to”. Hence the wisdom of God “is relevant to all time”. Even here it definitely does not mean “insurpassable record”. It is possible that you have seen this passage somewhere, or a paraphrasing of it, and got the wrong end of the stick.

But if you can find any references to support your contention that “all time” means insurpassable record then please provide it. Because I have provided my reference to the contrary.

I wish my access to the OED wasn’t down for some reason. We could resolve this in minutes.

you looked up “all-time” which, i made clear earlier, is not to be confused with the experession under discussion. i tried “of all time” and it brought me back to what we’re discussing. “for all time” yields a movie. sorry, that site is not useful.

you gave literary quotes that imply different coverages.

as i mentioned in my past examples, a 450-pound wrestler (assuming he was indeed the “all-time heaviest”) will become the heaviest wrestling competitor of “all time” if they limit weight to 250 pounds maximum. that’s an unsurpassable record.

“i stay allert at all times” goes beyond time up to this point but certainly not till the end of times, just my lifetime.

“last year’s profit of 10 million is a three-year high; still short of our all-time high of 12 million recorded 5 years ago.” a purely impirical description, not to imply an absolute ceiling on earnings.

I have answered your question, with multiple references. You have refernces to the “greatest actor of all time” going back120 years. That answers the question. It started at least 120 years ago.

You, in contrast, are unable to provide any evidence at all supporting your erroneous idea of what “all time” means.
The factual answer to the answer in the OP is “At least 120 years ago”. Your idea of what “all time” means is incorrect, unsupported and contradicted by the evidence presented

Willful ignorance cannot be fought.


oh, i’ve a feeling we’ll meet again. thanks for the time.