At the eleventh hour |

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At the eleventh hour

刊登日期: 2017.02.25
作者: Grace Tse  

In April 2016, a newspaper in Hong Kong reported that Leon Lai(黎明), a Cantopop singer, had to cancel the first of his concerts at the eleventh hour because the venue did not meet fire safety regulations

Does the idiom “at the eleventh hour” means at “eleven o’clock”? If we do something “at the eleventh hour” (最後一刻;最後關頭), we do it at the last minute. 

Some scholars believe that this idiom comes from King James Bible(《詹姆士王聖經》), an English translation of the Bible for the Church of England(英國聖公會)published in 1611. In the Gospel of Matthew(《瑪竇福音》), Jesus talks of a parable, in which a landowner hired labourers for his vineyard at the eleventh hour. 

“And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said unto them, ‘Why stand ye here all the day idle?’ ” Matthew 20:6) 

In the time of Jesus, people counted the daytime, from sunrise(6 a.m.)to sunset(6 p.m.), into twelve hours. Since the labourers were hired at the eleventh hour(i.e. 5 p.m.)of a 12-hour working day, they only worked for an hour. 

Scholars believe that eventually the phrase came to be used to express the meaning of “the last possible moment”. 

However, do not mix this up with the time of the Armistice Day(休戰日), which marks the end of the First World War at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month(i.e. at 11 a.m. on 11th of November)in 1918. Every year, a lot of places, such as Hong Kong, hold a memorial service on this day(also known as Remembrance Day (和平紀念日)). 


Cantopop 粵語流行曲
Fire safety regulations 消防安全規例 
Parable 寓言
Landowner 地主
Labourers 工人
Vineyard 葡萄園
Hired 雇用
Memorial service 紀念儀式

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