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”.
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!