Sunday, March 10, 2019

from 14 to 13

Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, the east coast of the United States has gone from a wintry 14-hour difference with Seoul to a 13-hour difference. I do the zone-conversion math quickly by flipping AM to PM or vice versa, and subtracting an hour from local time. For example, as I type this, it's 5:25 p.m. in Seoul. Flip PM to AM, subtract 1 from 5, and it's 4:25 a.m. along the US east coast, which includes my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia. Come fall, we'll be back to a 14-hour difference, with the US east coast always being behind Seoul.

I hear that people are thinking of abandoning Daylight Savings Time in the US, just as they're contemplating making the same move in Europe. Good, I say! Fourteen years in Korea, where no time change occurs, have* taught me you don't need the ol' switcheroo. With everything—including farming—so technologized these days, there's no longer any dependence on the sun to determine our work schedule, and thus no reason to "save" daylight hours.

*Is it have or has after the expression "Fourteen years"? I vote have because, in this context, the fourteen years are countable: you feel every single year. This isn't always the case: chunks of time are often treated as grammatically singular, so you need to practice a bit of discretion when determining whether your chunk of time should be a single, uncountable unit or a group of countable units. Rule of thumb:
     • Fourteen years is a long time. (uncountable: a single, objective chunk of time)
     • Fourteen years have passed since I last saw you. (countable: 14 individual, felt years)

The French do something like this, distinguishing between chunks of brute time and intervals of felt (or experienced) time. You can see this distinction in French vocabulary: jour/journée, matin/matinée, an/année, for example. The first word in each pair, the masculine word, denotes brute time; the second, feminine word in each pair denotes experienced time:

     La tâche a duré trois jours. The task lasted three days. (brute, objective time)
     T'as passé une bonne journée? You had a good day? (experienced, subjective time)

So both French and English have their own ways of distinguishing between time as objectively seen (brute time) and time as subjectively experienced (felt time). In English, the distinction is made through grammar. In French, it's made through vocabulary.

And I still vote have.

QUIZ: He labored for three days, which (wasn't/weren't) a long time, but (that was/those were) nevertheless the hardest three days of his life.

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