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The sentence: "It took me all of ten minutes to find out"

What does "all of" mean here exactly?

Is it mainly used in a sarcastic context?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Here, "all of" means "as few as", "merely" or "just". It doesn't have to be used sarcastically in general, and more context is needed to be able to say whether it's being used sarcastically in this particular case.

Here are a few examples of the idiom being used in non-sarcastic context, found by quick googling:

  • What's incredibly sad is how quickly I was able to concoct that message — it took me all of two or three minutes.
  • Except for steaming the green beans, it took me all of about 2 minutes to put together.
  • It took me all of two seconds after I first arrived at the [product name] website to say, “I've gotta have it”.
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Context: first comment of this question: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/q/1185 - so do you think it's sarcasm, or simply the direct meaning? – Stefan Monov Oct 7 '10 at 14:23
@Stefan: personally, I don't think badp's intention was to sound sarcastic. I take that comment to be pretty neutral-sounding, as in "Give the design a chance, it's been there for only 10 minutes." – RegDwigнt Oct 7 '10 at 14:30
It is "sarcastic" (not really) in the sense that in all the contexts quoted above, it means "as little as" (or, as you said, "merely"/"just") — thus it means a small quantity and not a large one as the words suggest. (Contrast with: "He had five months to do the job. It took him all of five months".) – ShreevatsaR Oct 7 '10 at 17:57
@ShreevatsaR: absolutely, I'm just saying that that connotation is not enough to automatically inject sarcasm into any phrase "all of" is used in. (I think "sarcasm" is too strong a word for that connotation anyway; I'd rather go with "irony" or even compare it with "quite a few", which, as I explained here is a trap for foreign learners for much the same reasons.) I think if badp were aiming at sarcasm, he would have probably used stronger wording: "a whopping", "the inconceivable amount of" or something like that. – RegDwigнt Oct 8 '10 at 8:52

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