Q&A: Daylight Saving Time

Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, we’re saving time in broad daylight…

Q: Hi AWC, I’m loving all this extra daylight in the evenings lately.

A: Yes, if you’re in a state other than WA, Qld or NT, then you’ll be enjoying the benefits of later sunsets.

Q: Yep, daylight savings is the best.

A: Might have to correct you there.

Q: What, are you one of these farmers who doesn’t agree?

A: Nothing to do with farming. Just pointing out that you’re saying it wrong.

Q: What do you mean?

A: It’s not “daylight savings” or even “Daylight Savings Time” – it’s actually “Daylight Saving Time”.

Q: Seriously?

A: As serious as a heart attack.

Q: Why do people say that?

A: We’re guessing that it’s because heart attacks are serious. It became popular as a saying in the 1960s. And a chap named Melvin Van Peebles named his spoken word album “As Serious as a Heart-Attack” in 1971.

Q: Never heard of him.

A: That’s not surprising.

Q: Okay, so it’s “Daylight Saving Time” – singular. I suppose that makes sense…

A: That’s right. Because it’s a time to save daylight (presumably to be used in the evenings). The corruption to “Daylight Savings” is very common – especially when the “Time” is left off the end.

Q: I’ve certainly been saying it wrong all this time.

A: Well, on the scale of English atrocities, saying “Daylight Savings” ranks fairly low.

Q: But good to know all the same.

A: Quite right.

Q: How long has Daylight Saving Time been around for anyway?

A: It was proposed by a New Zealand scientist back in 1895, and first trialled in a small area in Canada in 1908. But the first actual countries to use it were Germany and Austria in 1916 – during World War I, to save on fuel for lamps at night. Other countries did the same in both World War I and II. Australia didn’t regularly start using it in most states until 1971.

Q: And do most countries use it today?

A: Not all – around 70 out of about 200 countries. And many countries in Europe call it “Summer time” instead.

Q: Well, I suppose I just have one final question.

A: What’s that?

Q: How can Adelaide be 1600km west of Brisbane and yet 30 minutes ahead?

A: Some things just don’t have an answer…

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

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