When someone says "give me a second", or "one second please", how long do they actually mean?
Do they mean "will give you a response as soon as I can", or "in a short time, around 5 minutes"
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Exaggeration. That's the word, mate.
Example: When a woman says, Just a sec honey.
It means, we have to wait forever until they are done ;)
However, on sincere note.
Just a second is just another way of saying "I know what to do and I will do it quickly".
Best usage when responding to someone should be "I will be back momentarily"
which directly means : "will give you a response as soon as I can"
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If someone told me, "I'll be ready in a minute," I wouldn't interpret that to mean a literal 60 seconds. In fact, I wouldn't even assume that "one minute" was a rough estimate; I'd assume it was a figure of speech, and could be anywhere from, say, 20 or 25 seconds to five minutes or so. (Every once in a while, someone will respond to "in a minute" by looking at their watch, and saying, "okay, I'm timing you," which might be construed as lighthearted banter, but it could also be regarded as a rather sophomoric response.)
Perhaps "in a second" would be a little quicker than "in a minute", but I wouldn't bet on it. Other ways one could express the same thought would be:
Interestingly enough, my Mac's on-board thesaurus says that in a minute and in a second are synonyms:
That's a beautiful thing about language; it doesn't require the stopwatch precision of the hard sciences. Zero notwithstanding, where else can you multiply by 60 and mean the same thing?