Some remarks on time on the day the clocks go back here in Britain.
<Dimview> My time is 23.26. Twenty minutes before midnight. And don't do that crazy weird thing that Wntrmute does.
<sam512> Last I checked, you were UK time + 1 hour. I'm in the UK and it's 22:37. That makes it 23:37 where you are, which is half eleven, not half midnight.
<Dimview> Saying 'half something' and meaning thirty minutes after the hour. Damned confusing.
<sam512> Oh, wait, you live in one of those countries where "half midnight" means "23:30"...
<sam512> I vaguely remember that from German class.

from the archive

Although potentially confusing when organising nodermeets in Europe, the differing representations of, say, 11:30 are at least understandable: balanced exactly between two hours, it's an arbitrary decision as to whether you think of it as 'past' one or 'to' the other. (If you feel that one is obviously better, you may want to ponder whether 12AM should refer to the middle of the night or the day.)

Although that's all you have to watch out for in German, things can (to an English speaker) get weirder still in other languages that also adopt the 'half to' approach. I've been taking evening classes in Norwegian for a few weeks, and at our last session we learnt about telling the time. Thus I discovered that it features a curiosity I first encountered in Dutch, and now assume also applies to Swedish and Dimview's native Danish- that of thinking about time in half-hours.

For example (sticking with Norwegian): 11:20 is not "twenty past eleven" but ti på halv tolv - 'ten to half (to) twelve'; whilst 11:35 is fem over halv tolv - "five past half (to) twelve". Thus you'll actually stop talking about 11 as early as quarter past (kvart over elleve), which perhaps makes it a bit easier to think 'half to' rather than 'half past'. If you know of any other languages that behave like this, let me know; and if there are any that use half-hour blocks and English-style 'half past' (leading to constructions like 'five to half past eleven' for 11:25) that'd be cool to know, too.

Another chronological confusion in Norwegian is that middag - literally, midday - refers not just to the time but the main cooked meal of the day (itself hard to describe in English, given the vagaries of dinner), which most Norwegians would actually now eat around 5PM.




Kizor says: Japanese does this sensibly (!) by only ever using "past." Finnish uses the "five to half past" construction.
JellyfishGreen says: middag=noon (9 bells)=lunch! in Canada.

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