A Timely Proposal



The division of time is something that has been bothering me most of my adult life. We have our standard day, referred to as a “day” in the old British Imperial units, and as a “daye” in modern metric units. Fortunately, one British day equals one metric daye, except in Newfoundland, which is one-half-a-daye behind the rest of the world.

One day is divided into two major categories, ante meridiem (a.m.) being the time before noon, or midday, and post meridiem (p.m.) being the time after noon. Simple enough. Each of these half-day categories is further divided into 12 hours each, a full day thereby being your standard 24 hours, except for all the egghead nuclear scientists that insist that each day is really 24.01592548 hours.

Now here’s where it gets all arbitrary and complicated. By cultural convention, the six hours from noon to six p.m. is referred to as the “afternoon,” the six hours from six p.m. to midnight is referred to as the “evening,” but the twelve hours between midnight and noon is referred to as the “morning.” What gives? Why does the morning get to hog up half the daye? This is grossly unfair.

In the interest of equity, and possibly human rights, I am proposing a solution to once and for all redress this historical inequitable distribution of hours.

At first I thought vindictively, and was going to propose that we simply get rid of the morning and let the afternoon and evening each have twelve hours, oh say, for the next 1,000 years before we let the morning have another crack at dawn.

But I am not the vindictive type and thought that we’d simply start with a clean slate and have an equal distribution of hours among the three contenders. So I propose that each gets eight hours a day with the afternoon running from noon to eight p.m., the evening running from eight p.m. to four a.m., and the morning gets four a.m. to noon.

Wait, wait, wait. You see it too, eh. There is a flaw in this proposition. How can we still legitimately employ a.m. and p.m., which divided the day into two categories, now that we have three? The evening portion of the day is going to get a complex wondering if its identity is really before noon or after noon.

So a.m. and p.m. have to go. Since most people are asleep during the latter part of the new evening, let’s call the morning the first part of the day, or unus parte (u.p.), the afternoon the second part, or duo parte (d.p.), and the evening the third part, or tres parte (t.p.).

That takes care of that, but now there’s another problem in that we have two twelve-hour portions of the day distributed amongst three segments. One o’clock a.m. in the current system would be five o’clock t.p. We could redefine the hour to be comprised of 40 minutes so that we still have twelve hours in each third of the day, but I think this might be confusing, and the thought of 36-hour days somehow seems depressing.

I think it would be easier to simply get rid of nine, ten, eleven and twelve o’clock altogether and cycle three times through one to eight o’clock each day. So, for example, midnight would convert to four t.p., six a.m. to two u.p., and six p.m. to six d.p. Noon would still be noon. Got it?

This would of course necessitate someone taking advantage of an enormous economic opportunity in providing conversion tables. And don’t get me started about the market for new watches and clocks. Say goodbye to the twelve-hour clock face and welcome in the new eight-hour version.

Think of all the other benefits to society.

• No more 12-hour shifts. Everybody work an eight-hour morning, afternoon, or evening shift. Sign-up sheets are available for you to select your preferred shift.

• No more worrying about your children staying out till 3 a.m. since 7 t.p. doesn’t sound near as bad.

• No more midnight “witching” hour, it’s just 4 t.p.

• No more rushing around and panicking at the “eleventh hour.”

• Bill Haley’s “Rock-around-the-Clock” can be listened to in two-thirds the time.

• The new clock face lines up perfectly with the eight major compass directions.

The only downside that I can see is that lawyers will be able to ratchet up the bafflegab with opening statements like the following:

Defense lawyer: “Your honor, the defense will show that the party of the first part did not in fact strike the party of the second part in the upper part of his body with a badger as he left his party at 2 tres parte on the daye in question, ex parte.”

Judge: “What?”

Now if you will excuse me, it is past 2 t.p. and I need some rest before I propose a simple solution to another area that has been bothering me, the days of the week.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and is the principal behind the services of Statistics Courses. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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