Interestingly, this noun “spell,” carrying the sense of “a period of time” is also used to mean “a period of time of indefinite length,” which is usually specified and quantified in some fashion, e.g., “a long spell of unemployment” or “a short spell of unconsciousness.” This “spell” is often used to mean a period of time spent in a particular way (“Then came a spell of wandering, of high play, of rage for costly excitement, which … beggared him in a few years,”1885), but the US colloquial term “a spell” just means “for a time” (“He tried doctorin’ a spell,” 1884), not long, not short, and, as Pogo would say, nohow permanent.

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