five-minute wonders

Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello,

I found this expression in a Proficiency exam. They are talking about tidiness. Could you help me understand the meaning of five-minute wonders? I couldn't find it in any dictionary.

Frieda: My parents didn't live in a mess, but my room was my own. Thank goodness, my mother just accepted there were certain things I just had to have. They were part of me. Didn't you have your treasures, Frieda?
Martin: Oh, yes, there were five-minute wonders, but they were always tidy, and every so often l'd throw some out when they weren't useful any more.


Thanks in advance,
Mr Bones
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    This idiomatic expression refers to a passing fad or one's short-lived enthusiasm for something.

    I understand that Martin soon grew tired of any "treasures" he was keeping.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It seems a rather strange use of that sort of phrase, but presumably it means “a passing fad” – something the person was keen on (“into”) for a short time only before moving on to some new interest or craze.

    cross-posted and mind-reading again
     

    bwac14

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I had never heard of the term before in US English, but it was mentioned in this thread in a different context.

    In this context, it would just be something like a toy or novelty that you would lose interest in after 5 minutes.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s maybe worth mentioning the original (I assume?) idiom “nine days’ wonder”, said to refer to the very short reign of teenage queen Lady Jane Grey in 1553.

    Interestingly, Lexico’s entry is headed “one-day wonder (also nine-day wonder, seven-day wonder)”. No mention of 5 days! :D
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    English - SSBE Standard British
    These days, the commonest collocation with "number + noun + wonder" seems to be "one hit wonder". It's often used for a performer who had one extremely successful song and then was never heard of again.

    The meaning is more or less the same here - the person was very enthusiastic about a 'treasure' for a short time and then forgot about it.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’m not aware of any proof of this derivation, but the concept of a nine days’ wonder can be traced back at least as far as 1578 (when Lady Jane Grey was still well within living memory), since it occurs in John Lyly’s preface to his book Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit.

    It is not straunge when as the greatest wonder lasteth but nyne dayes, that a newe worke should not endure but three monethes.​
    However, if you look into it further, it turns out that the concept of nine days being the longest time for which anything remains newsworthy was almost certainly in use long before Lady Jane Grey’s time, so it was probably just coincidence that her tragic fate neatly fitted the idea!

    More theories here: a 9-day wonder.
    But the best article I’ve found online is this one: origin of nine days’ wonder – windowthroughtime, which ties in with published examples cited in the OED.
     
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