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What does 'ten of six' mean in regard to time?

In a Family Guy episode (The Hand That Rocks The Wheelchair), Meg asks "is it 10 of 8?", apparently looking up at the clock and referring to the fact that the time is 7:50. Is this a commonly used term to refer to the time as being "10 minutes to 8", or is it just a Family Guy thing? If it's common (I've never heard it before), what does it stand for, if "10 to 8" stands for "10 minutes to 8"?

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marked as duplicate by Matt Эллен, Jez, Mark Beadles, aedia λ, Monica Cellio May 16 '12 at 19:11

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It is common. It means the same as "10 to 8". Or "10 till 8". And many more... –  GEdgar May 16 '12 at 18:43
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As you've just realised: What does 'ten of six' mean in regard to time? –  Matt Эллен May 16 '12 at 18:57
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Yep. Voted to close. :-( –  Jez May 16 '12 at 18:58

2 Answers 2

Dictionary.com has an entry specifically for this meaning:

of 13. Chiefly Northern U.S. before the hour of; until: twenty minutes of five.

I don't have any proof, but it seems like the full phrase could have originally been 10 minutes short of 8 o'clock or perhaps 10 minutes shy of 8 o'clock. Over time, words could have been dropped in a progression similar to the following:

10 minutes short of 8

10 minutes of 8

10 of 8

The meaning is still unambiguous as long as you understand the omitted words.

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It means absolutely nothing in the UK, though. –  Rory Alsop May 16 '12 at 19:05

It was definitely a more common expression when I was a kid (I mean in the '60s and '70s) before there were digital clocks (or before they were in common use).

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