Sunday, August 31, 2008

People as Clocks

Deanna and I were walking around the lake this morning. As we passed people going the other direction we'd usually hear one of two things: "Hello" or "Good Morning". However, as I paid more attention I realized that I never heard "Good Morning" - it was always getting truncated to "Morning".

That's when I realized I also heard people say something similar after lunch: "Afternoon", or when walking at night: "Evening".

Are these people greeting me, or telling me the time of day?

I think when I walk around at lunch time I'm going to start greeting strangers with a cheerful "12pm", or when walking in the morning I'll use a bright and sunny "6am!" Now when people pass me they will now know I'm happy to see them and what time of day it is.

I'll be polite and useful.

1 comment:

Robb said...

When studying Linguistics in Utah, I came across an article of a US linguist who had gone to work in the Lower Mainland. He quickly became baffled by these "Morning," "Afternoon," but most specifically the "Evening," or "Night" greetings. He too deduced that such words were truncated greetings for "Good Afternoon" and such.

However, what surprised him more was the timing if some of the greetings. He would even hear people use "Evening" or "Night" at the end of the work day. He thought, do these Canadians consider the evening/night to begin at 4pm?!

What he later discovered was that "Night" was not just truncated for "Good Night" but rather, "I hope that you have a Good Night after you go home to your family" and was used as a parting greeting rather than a welcoming greeting. People would day, "Night" to each other as they left work, wishing each other a pleasant evening after they got home.

It's so obvious to the users, but when you think about it, our language use is odd sometimes, and it looks as though you have found another oddity to time greetings.