In the article Random Sneeze Call, the author writes:

This group was given no allergens at all; they just sat alone in a room for a total of 176 20-minute sessions.

with a note next to it:

For context, that's 490 repetitions of the song Hey Jude

What does for context mean in this, erm, context? Strangely enough, googling "for context" only yields results as [noun] for context, which is not a standalone phrase. The word has only one meaning that we already known (from Oxford Dictionary):

the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
"the decision was taken within the context of planned cuts in spending"

I think it simply means that the author wants to provide more information, might be irrelevant to the main point, but I'm not sure about that. The footnote itself is to provide more information already, and he also use it heavily for irrelevant information without have, so there is no need to use for context. The research he refers to also have no single Hey Jude appears once.

Do you know what it means?

  • It means they should have written "for perspective". Context is about providing more information about a situation, perspective is to give a measurement in a unit people can relate to. – Peter Morris Feb 23 '17 at 22:53
  • is it different from "for comparison"? – Ooker Feb 24 '17 at 10:52
  • You'd tend to compare things that should be equal, for example when buying a car you'd look at the price of a car of the same make/model with similar mileage "for comparison". Perspective is about looking at something another way, so although you might compare a whale's heart with a small car, you are doing it for the purpose of adding some perspective. – Peter Morris Feb 24 '17 at 14:21

Providing context (for context) is giving additional information that will help to make sense of something. For example - quoting someone out of context

A more accurate phrase to have used would have been "for perspective" or "to put that into perspective".

Perspective is about looking at something in a different way in order to make it easier for the reader to comprehend. For example, when describing the size of a Blue Whale's heart it is often compared to the size of a small family car. Whether this is true or not I don't know, but it is offering a perspective more people can relate to.


It's really just a humorous reference that compares the given duration to another, known duration -- specifically the time it takes to play "Hey Jude".

It's (potentially) funny because "Hey Jude" is a relatively short and simple song -- 4 minutes -- which (depending on the version) ends with another 2-4 minutes of the repetitive "Na, na na, na na na na, na na na na, hey Jude". So many people might think it's needlessly extended and tiresome.

The author presents the image of listening to this "overlong" song 490 times, which would likely seem an eternity, even for a diehard Beatles fan.

Edit: Relevant "Hey Jude" diagram

  • so it basically means "for comparison"? – Ooker Feb 24 '17 at 10:52
  • @Ooker as Peter Morris mentions in his answer, it's for "perspective". If you understand how long it takes to listen to "Hey Jude", more than a few times, you get a sense of how long the test subjects were asked to sit in a room and do nothing. – Andrew Feb 24 '17 at 20:01

In this example,

"For" = "In order to provide"


"context" = "additional related facts which can give you some perspective"

on the length of time involved. Similar to putting a person next to a very large object in a photo so you can sense how big it actually is in real life.

  • so it basically means "for comparison"? – Ooker Feb 24 '17 at 10:50
  • 1
    Yes, basically. The connotations are slightly different though. "Context" seems like an offer to deepen your understanding, whereas "comparison" seems more like asking the listener to perform a calculation. – Stew C Feb 24 '17 at 18:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.