[sf-lug] 12 am/pm controversy

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Dec 15 14:21:15 PST 2008

Quoting Alex Kleider (a_kleider at yahoo.com):

> I wonder if the 12 am/pm controversy is analogous to the question of
> what day it is  _ON_ the international date line (not on one side or
> the other, a purely theoretical situation I agree, but an interesting
> one, to me at least.)

Maybe -- but we actually schedule things for exactly noon in the real world,
whereas nobody outside of obscure Umberto Eco novels attempts to do
things exactly atop the International Date Line.

Don't forget, the International Date Line was routed specifically to
avoid anywhere people normally spend time.

> If it is noon, you must decide if you are part of the morning
> numbering system in which case it is 12am, or part of the afternoon
> numbering system in which case it is 00pm.

No, your premise is simply wrong.  There is no need to decide whether
it's part of either the morning or afternoon numbering system:  It's
neither.  Moreover, your other premise also wrong:  Noon is not
fundamentally an item on a numbering system; it's a concept -- midday --
relative to which (and in distinction to which) AM and PM are defined.

> There is no dispute about the derivation of am and pm. Many words are
> used in ways not completely in keeping with their derivation. 

As I said, it certainly _would_ be possible to decide that "AM" and "PM"
henceforth will no longer be regarded as being abbreviations for anything.  
However, you would still have your serious problem that you disagree
with most of the world about what you'd then want to define "12:00am"
and "12:00pm" to mean.

> In this context I would look upon these terms as simply being labels
> indicating first or second half of the day. Noon and midnight are the
> borders thereof and hence can each be identified in the context of
> either half. 

Yes, I've already said that a few times -- but have also added that you
have a serious problem in having vanishingly little consensus with the
rest of the world about where you'd assign noon and midnight using those

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