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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Where does 24/7 come from?
Labour has brought 24/7 drinking
Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants 24 July to be a day celebrating volunteers and their "24/7" duties. But where does the term come from?

On first hearing, "24/7" has the sound of an Americanism, a shortening from the world's first convenience culture.

When Gordon Brown chose it as the date to celebrate the work of volunteers and emergency workers he did so because it "reflected the 24/7 nature of the work it will recognise".

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the term as "twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; constantly". It lists its first reference to 24/7 as from US magazine Sports Illustrated in 1983.

The man to use it was basketball player Jerry Reynolds and he was talking about his jump shot. This is when a player releases the ball in mid-air and Reynolds said his was "good 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year".


But the term 24/7 is also popular in the business world, particularly when a service around the clock like online banking. It is used to promote the convenience of such services, as opposed to rather more inconvenient eight-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week ones.

Pick up a phone directory and you will find plenty of businesses who have even put the 24/7 into their name.

The term has also been picked up by the music world. It has appeared in song lyrics and speech, perhaps indicating that whatever the artist is doing, he is committed to doing it all the time.

24-7: With a hyphen
24/7/365: For emphasis
24/7 BDSM: Bondage slang

American R&B singer Kevon Edmonds croons in his hit single 24/7: "I think about you all the time, 24-7 babe, the love I have inside for you is more than any words can say."

In an interview, Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck pleaded with fellow rappers not to be always harping on about violence by saying: "You can't be gangster 24/7."

The term is even used in sexual bondage to indicate someone who is in a permanent relationship of domination and submission.

But Mr Brown's use is altogether more innocuous, trying to get some recognition for everyone from lifeboat staff to those working with the elderly.

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