I have been searching for a while, and I haven't seen a good discussion of this phrase. It seems to me like the preposition is in question (I've heard it both ways), and the possessive is also in question (I have arguments for both).

First, the possessive. The moment is personified and it is noticing. So the phrase would be sort of magical. You're imagining a moment as a person and that moment would have very brief notice, so the meaning works. That is, almost no notice at all. The problem with this is that it's a bit crazy. How would we know how much notice a moment would give? How did something so poetic become common usage?

The other interpretation (without the possessive) is that it's a measure of the amount of notice. One moment of notice, but then I suppose it should be singular.

What are your thoughts?

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  • 1
    You've "misparsed" the usage. The "moment" doesn't "notice" anything - in this context, "notice" is a noun meaning advance warning. The genitive is the same as an hour's walk, a day's work. – FumbleFingers Nov 4 '16 at 17:08
  • By accusing me of making an error, you've encouraged me to be defensive. First, "misparsed" (unforgivable slang ;) implies that I have separated the words incorrectly when in fact, you accuse me of making a definitional error ("advanced warning" versus "observation"), which wouldn't (technically) be misparsing (should such a word even exist). Second, the genitive is still the possessive (unless you have an alternate definition to the word genetive) and therefore, it most certainly is a notice belonging to the moment (no matter what your definition of notice). Finally, my other questions? – RocketBouchard Dec 5 '16 at 19:21
  • You said the moment is personified, such that it [the moment] is noticing [something]. This reflects a misunderstanding common among non-native speakers. The Saxon genitive ('s) doesn't necessarily imply ownership, and I don't think it ever implies "personification" over and above anything already implicit in the specific usage context. Thus tonight's entertainment doesn't "belong" to tonight (not even metaphorically) - such a collocation simply means entertainment that's in some way [closely] connected to tonight (because that's when it happens, in this specific case). – FumbleFingers Dec 6 '16 at 15:48
  • First, thanks for the conversation. Second, can you give me a source for any of this? At the moment, I see no reason why your position is correct and mine isn't. I even think the plural is still on the table, barring evidence. If it's just opinion, that's cool, but I'd love to have that confirmed. Any thoughts on the preposition? – RocketBouchard Dec 7 '16 at 7:31
  • From Wikipedia: Possessives, as well as their synonymous constructions with of, express a range of relationships that are not limited strictly to possession in the sense of ownership. If you check out that page you'll find, for example, the proposal's rejection. I don't think there's any concept of "personification" or "ownership" there. Not sure what you mean by "the plural is still on the table" though - attributive noun usages (I'm on day work this week) nearly always feature the singular noun form. – FumbleFingers Dec 7 '16 at 14:31

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