Time passes for everyone at the same rate. Oh, I suppose on a certain level, the variations in the earth’s rotation, diameter, etc., mean that people who live in foreign countries may have time pass slightly, every so slightly, different that we do in America.
Last night as I lay in bed, I was thinking about time. Not Stephen Hawkings’ thinking, but about the language of time. Time in the American vernacular is a very odd topic.
Take twelve o’clock, for example. That can either be noon or midnight. If it’s twelve o’clock and the sun is out, in most places that means it is noon. And, the opposite is also true, when it’s dark out, it’s midnight.
What exactly is 12:00 a.m.? Or 12:00 p.m., for that matter? The suffix a.m. is short for the Latin phrase “ante meridiem“, or before midday. “Post meridiem” or p.m. means after midday. Now, here’s where your brain begins to itch. 12:00 a.m. is midnight. 12:00 p.m. is noon. How come?
12:01 p.m. is understandable. One minute after noon is after midday. But noon, 12:00, is midday, and it also marks the end of our way of counting time before midday. We never count zero to nine but one to ten. Or one to twelve. Shouldn’t noon be a.m.?
Time was just there for the taking when the British grabbed it and created Greenwich Mean Time. It’s understandable with the sole surviving Time Lord being a very English Dr. Who, after all. Still, they got it and never let anyone else have it. You want proof? Look at a map of the International Date Line, running allegedly twelve hours apart from Greenwich Mean Time. Does the International Date Line look straight to you? It has more zigs and zags than Tommy Chong’s personal stash.
We broke down time into sets, morning, afternoon, evening and night. Not being content, we then added subsets, early, mid and late. No one defined those sets and subsets so they mean different things to different people. The morning crew at a local radio station has to get up about 2:00 a.m., which they call early morning. If I come dragging in from a bar at 2:00 a.m., I’ve had a late night.
Early and late don’t help at all. A woman is not late with her menstrual period for several days but if you show up one minute after the time for your job interview, you’re late.
I was trying to find a way to blame all this on the French but I couldn’t. Other than the late period, that could be the French at work.