[LEAPSECS] Calendars count days - clocks divide them up

Poul-Henning Kamp phk at phk.freebsd.dk
Tue Jul 2 16:10:06 EDT 2013

In message <OFB446D55E.1EE02302-ON85257B9C.00542334-85257B9C.0055AF33 at qc.cuny.e
du>, Kevin.Birth at qc.cuny.edu writes:

>The day is panculturally recognized as a time reference, but many cultures

>are not concerned with the day as a uniform unit of duration. Instead,

>days can vary in length (like months and years), and it is not a problem.

Theres an interesting linguistic point here too:

All languages I know about, have a word for "day" and one for "night"

A small minority of languages also have a word for a 24 hour period
starting and ending at midnight.

In Danish for instance this word is "døgn" and can be traced back to
ancient nordic, ie: what the vikings spoke at Hastings etc:

see: http://ordnet.dk/ods/ordbog?query=d%C3%B8gn

I tried to use translate.google.com to find out how many languages
make this distinction, but to no avail.

When translating "døgnet, dagen og natten" from Danish to Norvegian,
or from Norvegian to danish, "døgnet" gets translated as "dagen".

This is probably because Google Translate has english as its "native
tongue" and looses the distinction along the way.

I don't think any nordic person would agree that "a day has 24 hours".

>The definition of a day in terms of multiples of smaller units of time,

>e.g., 86400 seconds, is culturally unique and extremely recent.

Indeed. In Ancient egypt the day had 10 hours, no matter how long
the day was due to the seasons.

>And it seems there is impatience about working through these consequences.

Or maybe some people correctly recognize that standardization is done
for the benefit of the future, not for the clarification of the past ?

Poul-Henning Kamp | UNIX since Zilog Zeus 3.20
phk at FreeBSD.ORG | TCP/IP since RFC 956
FreeBSD committer | BSD since 4.3-tahoe
Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

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