Monday, October 15, 2007

Clocks are running late

Let's say I tell you that the clock in my kitchen is five minutes late. When my clock says that it's 8:00, what time is it really?

This is a sincere question. Check the comments for elaboration.

9 comments:

Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

Until this year, I just assumed there was only one answer to this question that made any sense. To me, saying that a clock is "five minutes late" means that it's showing a time that's five minutes later than the real time. You might also describe that by saying the clock "is five minutes ahead" or "runs five minutes fast". So when it shows 8:00, it's really 7:55.

This means you would set your clock to run fast if you wanted to avoid being late for things. If you leave your house when your clock says 8:00, you actually have an extra five minutes to get where you're going.

However, I've recently learned that some people use these terms in the opposite way. I encountered somebody on the internet who talked about how you would set your watch "early" in order not to be late for things. I attempted to explain why they had it backwards, but then it transpired that when they say a watch is five minutes early, they mean exactly the same thing I mean when I say a watch is five minutes late.

You see, a clock like the one in my kitchen, that helps me be on time to things by saying it's 8:00 when it's really 7:55, could be described as being "early" as well. After all, the clock is ahead of schedule in the sense that it moves its hands to say 8:00 five minutes before it needs to.

Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

And if you're skeptical, some quick googling found somebody (the eighth comment at this page, from someone named Lana) who uses these terms in the "backwards" way compared to what I do.

gusgreeper said...

i am always changing the clocks to match each other so i never really know if the time is right but im always within 5 minutes! to PROVE it, last night the nine o clock gun went off for the first time since the civic strike started and when i heard it the clocks still said 8:55ish. i was actually kinda creeped out for a sec that i even noticed that all the clocks within my eye sight at the time (four) were all really close to the same.

sydney said...

You can put me in the "opposite" column. To me, a clock that is running late is behind. You wouldn't say that someone who is 5 minutes ahead of everyone else is running late.

Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

Sydney, out of curiosity, can I ask how you found my blog? Was it through the Comics Curmudgeon by any chance?

sydney said...

I'm not really sure. I was googling something relating to some of the musical acts listed on one of your posts, and one click led to another...

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