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Mentioning a book to an individual to include in their list as classic was met with...

I wouldn't call "Book Name" a classic - it's less than 11 years old.

This got me thinking about when a book or other item (car, slang, recipe, etc...) becomes a classic. In my initial investigation I stumbled upon this description...

A novel can be called a classic when there is a significant time period between its publishing and the current age we are in. In other words, it has to be old, as well as critically renowned as a good novel. Then, it can be called a classic.

While the above may help define what constitutes a classic, it doesn't define the amount of time that needs to pass before that criteria is met.

Does the designation classic truly imply that a significant amount of time has passed since the work's creation, and if so, how long must that period be to qualify as "significant"?

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Note sure why this is marked to close? This question is based on what the word classic means when used in the above context. The length of time before something becomes classic is part of the definition of classic in the mentioned context. –  Aaron McIver Nov 28 '11 at 15:26
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I don't think it is easy to define the time that must come to pass before such a characterization can be given. I've heard people calling famous plays of the 20th century "classic", although they were written about 60 years ago. Usually this term is used to refer to works of fiction that were produced in the 19th century or earlier. I don't think it has to do with language and its usage. –  Irene Nov 28 '11 at 15:48
    
Note classics in humanities is generally bound by time and place. –  Hugo Nov 28 '11 at 16:20
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@JasperLoy If it were so, then the question should be rewritten; as it is, it is asking when a book is considered classic. –  kiamlaluno Nov 28 '11 at 16:22
    

4 Answers 4

Time, as they say in contracts, is not of the essence. For the OED, a classic is:

A work of literature, music, or art of acknowledged quality and enduring significance or popularity. In extended use: something which is memorable and an outstanding example of its kind.

The entry is silent on how long it must endure to be of enduring significance or popularity.

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Classic as explained at etymonline.com historically referred to standard authors of Greek and Roman antiquity. As an adjective and noun it now means (a) "1, exemplary of a particular style; 2, exhibiting timeless quality" and (n) "1, a perfect and/or early example of a particular style; 2,an artistic work of lasting worth". Some books, films, and artistic works are of obvious quality when they first appear; others are not; any can be called classic in either sense even when they first appear. Some judgments hold, some do not.

An ngrams for "instant classic,old classic,new classic,favorite classic" in recent years shows rising use of "instant classic". enter image description here

For some reason, use of "favorite classic" has exploded since 2006.

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I'd say a Roman author wrote a classical work, part of the classics, but specifically not a classic (unless it has that merit independently). Precisely to avoid this sort of confusion. –  TimLymington Nov 28 '11 at 23:36

There is no definite length of time which must pass before something becomes a classic. The requirement is that sufficient time has passed during which it becomes famous because of its quality.

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Then in my example, is 11 years sufficient? It seems that society drives the transition with no clear cut line. –  Aaron McIver Nov 28 '11 at 16:53
    
I got a new iPhone, and gave my classic iPhone to my nephew... –  GEdgar Nov 28 '11 at 18:35

To qualify as a classic, it should have stood the test of time. If a model of a car has been discontinued and no other model has earned as much acceptance in the time that usually takes for the older models to be forgotten in the light of newer, better ones, then the nice old model is rightly a classic!

Applies equally well to literature or recipes?

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