Q&A: Daylight Saving Time

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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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