It's a paragraph in an article about psychology that was published in NYT:

So does the moment really deserve its many accolades? It is a philosophy likely to be more rewarding for those whose lives contain more privileged moments than grinding, humiliating or exhausting ones. Those for whom a given moment is more likely to be “sun-dappled yoga pose” than “hour 11 manning the deep-fat fryer.”

I've never seen this order before. Is it normal to use this order for saying time periods?

  • It's hard to tell what exact meaning the writer was groping for. It seems pretty superfluous. I'd get rid of it, but then that's just me being my usual self.
    – Mick
    Nov 28 '16 at 17:24
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    "hour (number) 11 manning the deep-fat fryer” might have been easier to understand.
    – user3169
    Nov 28 '16 at 17:31
  • @Mari-LouA it's the same user asking about a different aspect from the quote. Is this correct, or should this all have been one question?
    – Andrew
    Nov 28 '16 at 20:08
  • @Andrew the same user, but he wanted to know the meaning, I guess my explanation didn't quite convince him. He needed confirmation. However, this question is not a duplicate, it's much more specific, IOW the OP's question is different
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 28 '16 at 20:11

It isn't a common grammar, but since the rest of the sentence is perfectly fine we have to assume it is intentional and use context to glean the meaning. In this paragraph the author contrasts those who lead "privileged" lives to those who don't, so we can paraphrase the unusual part as if the person was keeping a daily log:

23:40 - It's now hour 11 of my (possibly 12-hour) shift, manning this deep-fat fryer.

I don't know how common it is for kitchen workers to do 11+-hour shifts, but that's really beside the point. The main focus is on the contrasting images of "sun-dappled yoga" and "interminable hours spent deep-frying food"

[Edit] To be clear, the phrase means that it's been ten (not eleven, thank you MathieuK) hours since the employee started the shift, and now they're on "Hour 11". It's not a measure of duration, nor does it imply how much longer they have to go before they finish.

Also, as Paul points out, "The 11th hour" is an idiomatic expression meaning "The latest possible time before it is too late (to make any change)". But that's probably best asked as a separate question since it's only indirectly related to this context.

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    I agree: the quotes are both illustrations of "a given moment" so the phrases are implicitly "(I am now in a) sun-dappled yoga pose" and "(I am now on) hour-11 (of my shift) manning the deep-fat fryer." This count-last style is typical of expedition logs, and noting each hour like a marker implies a long hard journey: "It is day 27 of our trek. At mile 200 we reached the halfway point." Nov 28 '16 at 17:56
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    I think you should be more explicit in this answer that "hour 11" refers to (at most) a 1-hour period, not an 11 hour period. It seems the OP needs clarification that hour 10 = the 10th hour (changing the number because "the 11th hour" is also a common phrase).
    – Paul
    Nov 28 '16 at 18:22
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    You'll often hear the narrator in a movie/book say something like, "It's Day 3 of my 7-day hike through the Andes Mountains". I think it's especially common when writing in a journal. Nov 28 '16 at 19:48
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    I wouldn't say this is uncommon grammar at all. "Hour/Day/Week/Year XXX" is well understood in English, at least it seems to me
    – user428517
    Nov 28 '16 at 20:01
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    @Andrew: You seem to be comparing "11 hours" and "hour 11" and "11th hour", all of which have different meanings (assuming that 11th hour is most likely to be used as the expression rather than in the context of 9th hour, 10th hour, etc.). hour 11 and 11 hours mean very different things so saying hour 11 isn't common because 11 hours is used more often is like saying it isn't common because "elephants" is used more often.]
    – Chris
    Nov 29 '16 at 1:41

In this context, the phrase "hour 11 of task X" means that you are in the 11th hour of doing the task. You've been doing it for somewhere between 10 and 11 hours (since the first hour goes from hour 0 to hour 1 - thanks Mathieu). The exact amount of time is not actually important to the author's point in the quote above, only that it's been a very long work day (especially at an unpleasant task).

If we instead say you performed an "11-hour task X" then we're saying that the task will be complete after 11 hours. Compare this to the "hour 11" version, which does not give any information about how long the task will have taken in total to complete (or whether it will complete at all!). The "11-hour" version also doesn't specify how much time we have already spent (only the total required) so we don't know if the task is already complete, in progress, or has not even started.

The key distinction here is that it's not a "time period" as the OP asked, but a "moment". The author chose to use this wording because he's talking about examining all of the moments in a person's life, and comparing lives which contain more pleasant (yoga) ones vs. lives that contain more unpleasant (fryer) ones. He says that if a randomly chosen moment from your life is more likely to be pleasant than unpleasant, then you are more likely to appreciate whatever the rest of the article is talking about.

  • Where "hour 11" comes in: the random moment is one in which you are not only manning the deep-fryer, but have already been manning it for many hours.
    – Mathieu K.
    Nov 29 '16 at 5:28
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    Proposed revision: « In this context, the phrase "hour 11 of task X" means that you are in the 10th hour of doing the task. You've been doing it for somewhere between 10 and 11 hours. » (I believe we start counting hours at 1, not at zero. A two-hour task has an hour 1 and an hour 2, not an hour 0 and an hour 1. Unless you're a computer programmer.)
    – Mathieu K.
    Nov 29 '16 at 5:33
  • You are correct, Mathieu -- I've changed it. Alas, I am a computer programmer.
    – A C
    Nov 29 '16 at 14:42

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