Random thought of the day

Does anyone know why we talk about at a particular time but on a particular day. As in, “Let’s meet at noon on Sunday.” But never “Let’s meet on noon.” Or, “Let’s meet at Sunday.”


12 thoughts on “Random thought of the day

  1. Hmmm…

    Because we analogize the passage of large scale time like a gameboard, and we’re always moving ourselves to that square on the calendar, and we predict what life will be like when we get to a future square on the calendar. The concept is more abstract.

    But we analogize short-scale time in distances, and we meet at three o’clock much like we will meet at the corner of Main St and Sunset Blvd. The concept is more concrete.

  2. I have two nice books by Ciardi, “A Browser’s dictionary” and its sequel. It has his zany views on words and idioms all over.
    One phrase in there comes to mind for your question: “Language does what it does because it does so”. Idioms, like phonetics, syntax, and vocabulary all are pretty arbitrary and vary from language to language, and are subject to change. Just to pick one example, in Dutch the same expressions would use “on a date” and “around a time” — yes, “around” even though it’s a precise time, not an approximate one.
    On vocabulary: many of us have heard the assertion that Inuit has 30 words for snow, or something like that. I’m pretty sure Dutch has more words for bodies of water than English does, again for rather obvious reasons.
    But you can find distinctions in one language that are absent in another for no obvious reason. In English, “over” and “above” are distinct words with different meanings; in Dutch both translate to one word that loses the distinction. Similarly, “tall” and “long” are distinct in English, but merge in Dutch, which once in college (my 2nd year in the US) got me in trouble in a conversation with a nice young lady. 🙂

  3. Americans say, “The store is on Main Street.” In some English speaking places they would say, “The store is in Main Street.”

  4. I have pondered this in the past (often as a ‘shower thought’).

    The best solution *my* brain has settled on is that regarding TIME (of day), prior to the advent of digital displays, time was measured by the hands on a round faced clock…or more precisely, the CONFIGURATION of said hands on the clock.

    So when *I* say “AT 4:15”, it is essentially a shortened version of “…when the hands of the clock are configured AT the positions required to read 4:15”.

    Similarly, with regard to specifying a particular DAY, we don’t so much ‘measure’ days as we track them with a calendar arranged in a grid. But since the positions of DAY and DATE are constantly changing configuration, it’s less like a fixed chart where you could call out a co-ordinate (AT row B slot 3), and more like a game board (ON this square).

    So, “Let’s meet ON Monday the Fifth AT 4:15”

    At least that’s how it works in *MY* brain. I can’t speak for anyone else.

    Addendum: AT for time could also be a holdover from time telling by position of the Sun.

  5. No particular reason. Be the change you want to see. But it doesn’t matter. Your appointments are still when and where they were agreed to be.

    My son just asked me last night, Why “on” verses “upon”? So make your next appointment “upon noon, upon Sunday”. Or avoid the question altogether with, “Let’s get together; Sunday noon?”. Either works for me. I won’t judge, although one is easier to pronounce.

  6. We meet at a time on a day in a month.

    At 8:00am on the first Friday in June over the phone

  7. Meanwhile… we find ourselves sitting on our computers, typing comments at Joe’s blog, on or around 22 August 2020.

    To all of you, I wish peace unto all.

    Peace on,

  8. Picking apart language can put one’s brain in a dizzying tizzy.

    I watched this video of a dialect expert at the Internet on the YouTube awhile back; helpful for getting over getting hung-up on language particulars. Poignant points @13:10:

  9. Expecting languages to follow rational rules is a fool’s errand. A good way to learn this is to learn a few more languages. It doesn’t hurt for them to be rather unrelated to your own, though it isn’t crucial.
    If all you know is modern English you get very little exposure to this, by the nature of how modern English is put together. But try Spanish or French, with their two genders. Try to deduce a reason why any given work is masculine vs. feminine. Now throw in German, which has three genders, and ask those same questions again. Why do the French have the sun as masculine while the Germans have it feminine? No idea. No reason that I can think of other than “it happened that way”.
    Or consider Japanese, which barely distinguishes singular from plural, but does have different word forms to indicate your social relationship vs. the person you are speaking to.
    Or try phonetics. Why do some languages have tones while others do not? Why do some (like Hawaiian) have very few distinct sounds while others (Georgian) have many? Why do some south African languages have clicks? Again, no idea, these are just facts, not things to be reasoned about.

  10. The answer would surprise you. And shatter your sanity. Some things are best not known.

Comments are closed.