Grammar Girl #761. Daylight Saving Time. The Origin of the Words ‘Woman’ and ‘Queen.’

Grammar Girl #761. Daylight Saving Time. The Origin of the Words ‘Woman’ and ‘Queen.’

People have told me they want to see videos,
so here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how I record the Grammar Girl podcast with some
images thrown in for fun. Thanks for watching! Grammar Girl here. I’m Mignon Fogarty, and
you can think of me as your friendly guide to the English language—writing, history,
rules, and cool stuff. Today, in honor of daylight saving time, I have a segment on
a few different time-related topics, another segment about the origin of the word “woman,”
and a familect story about sitting benext to someone.
Let’s get started. Many parts of the world are moving from standard
time to daylight saving time (also called summer time) this week, so I thought it would
be a good time to talk about the phrase “daylight saving time” and time in general. I still
have to think of the mnemonic “spring forward, fall back” every time we do this to figure
out what to do with my clocks. Since it’s spring, I’ll be moving my clocks ahead Saturday
night before I go to bed. Technically, the time changes at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday night,
but it’s not like I’m going to wait up just to change my clocks.
Britain and Germany were the first countries to institute a time change during World War
I. When the United States joined the war, lawmakers agreed that moving the clocks was
a good way to save energy, and in the official 1918 law that established the time change
in the U.S., they named it “daylight saving time.” It is still generally agreed to be
“daylight saving time” today, and not “savings time” (1, 2)— no S at the end.
Remember the spelling by thinking that the whole idea was that people were saving energy.
And the words are not capitalized, and there’s no hyphen. Daylight saving time.
And a sad footnote is that, supposedly, we don’t save energy anymore by switching to
daylight saving time because the energy we save by not having to turn on the lights as
early is more than offset by how much more we run our air conditioners while we’re
home in the warmer evenings. Next, we’ll talk about time zones.
Most countries have signed on to the idea of a standard world time system. For us the
world is divided into 24 time zones, and each zone differs by an hour from the time zone
next to it. Not everyone uses this system though. Some time zones don’t participate
in daylight saving time, and a few places divide their region into half-hour zones.
Actually, it’s even more complicated than that. Arizona, for example, doesn’t participate
in daylight saving time, but other states in the same time zone do. So during standard
time, it is the same time in Arizona and Utah, but during daylight saving time, it is an
hour earlier in Arizona because Arizonans don’t “spring forward” like other regions
in the same time zone. (And that probably makes sense energy-wise because they use a
lot of air conditioning in Arizona. I know. I used to live there.)
If you need to indicate that a time is in a certain time zone, the simplest way to do
it is to put the time zone abbreviation after the time: for example, for Eastern Standard
Time, you’d write 4:30 p.m. followed by the capital letters EST.
However, as many listeners have noted over the years, it’s common for people not to know
whether we’re in daylight saving time or standard time and to write EST throughout the year
and not just during standard time. If you’re one of those people, it’s better to simply
use “ET” as an abbreviation for “Eastern time” instead of getting it wrong.
Generally, you capitalize all the words when you’re writing the full name of the time
zone and capitalize just the first part when you’re using a shortened version. For example,
you capitalize all the words in “Pacific Standard Time” and “Pacific Daylight Time,”
but just the word “Pacific” if you refer to simply “Pacific time.” Multiple international listeners have suggested
using GMT (Greenwich mean time) as an alternative because it is the same for everyone. GMT uses
a 24-hour clock that’s tied to the time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.
The Associated Press includes the local time and GMT in some international stories, and
when they do, it’s written in parentheses after the local time, so if a story includes
Eastern Daylight Time and GMT, for example, it would be written as “5 p.m. EDT followed
by (2100 GMT)” in parentheses. GMT is also known as Universal Coordinated
Time, abbreviated UTC, and the time in other time zones outside of the Greenwich zone is
sometimes written as a plus or minus offset from GMT, so the time in New York can also
be referred to as GMT-5 or UTC-5. (That’s the capital letters of the abbreviation followed
by a hyphen and then the number five, with no spaces.)
And yes, I noticed too that the abbreviation “UTC” doesn’t match the words “Universal
Coordinated Time.” It turns out the abbreviation is a compromise meant to be acceptable to
people speaking different languages. English doesn’t always win. And just to make things even more complicated,
GMT or UTC are also sometimes known as “Zulu time.” According to, the
“Zulu time” designation is mostly used in aviation and in the military. The name
comes from the fact that each time zone in GMT has an alphabetical letter designation,
and the zone at the Royal Observatory is labeled Z. So the name “Zulu time” comes from
the name for the letter Z in the NATO phonetic alphabet: Zulu. You know how A, B, and C,
are “alpha,” “bravo,” “charlie”? Well, Z is “zulu.” And in case you’re
curious, the time zones in the U.S. are designated R, S, T, U, V, and W, from the Eastern time
zone to the Hawaiian time zone. Zulu time also uses the 24-hour clock and
is written with a Z after the number with no space, and may be written with or without
a colon in the number, according to And you say it as “zero eight hundred Zulu,”
for example, for eight o’clock in the morning. Although GMT, UTC, and Zulu time are the same
everywhere, and they might be an improvement over all our different time zones, they’re
not the current standard in the general public in the United States. It may be good to use
GMT if you regularly schedule meetings internationally, but I can’t recommend it yet for people who
mainly communicate with other people in the U.S. But I do think it’s polite to describe your
meeting times in the other person’s time zone. For example, I usually say something like,
“Let’s talk at 9:00; that’s noon your time.” Just make sure you get the conversion right!
I always use to check on times in other cities. And still, a couple of times
I year, I miss a meeting because someone doing the scheduling got the time zone conversion
wrong. (And every time that happens, the “let’s use GMT” suggestion sounds a little better.) Also, there are at least two acceptable ways
to write “a.m.” and “p.m.,” which are abbreviations for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem.” “Ante
meridiem” is Latin for “before noon” and “post meridiem” is Latin for “after noon.” Note
that it is “meridieM” with an M, not “meridiaN” with an N.
You can write “a.m.” and “p.m.” as lowercase letters with periods after them or as small
capitals with or without periods (3, 4). Either way, there should be a space between the time
and the “a.m.” or “p.m.” that follows. Although small capitals used to be the preferred style,
it’s now more common to see lowercase letters followed by periods. I suspect that’s because
it’s a little bit of extra work to make small caps on a computer.   And a listener
named Rae asked whether it’s OK to write 2 p.m. without the zeroes instead of 2:00 p.m.
(with 2 colon zero zero)? If you’re using Associated Press style, that’s how you’d
write it, but Chicago style recommends including the zeroes. So it depends on what style guide
you follow. And remember how I said “a.m.” means “before
noon” and “p.m.” means “after noon”? So what about noon, then? Well, technically,
noon is neither a.m. nor p.m. Although it’s common to see noon written as 12:00 p.m. and
midnight written as 12:00 a.m., it’s not correct and can confuse people. It’s better to stick
with just the words “noon” and “midnight.” There are also a couple of redundancies that
relate to time. For example, it’s redundant to say “8:00 a.m.
in the morning.” By including the a.m. you’ve already indicated that it’s morning.
It’s also usually redundant to use the phrase “period of time” — either “period” alone
or “time” alone will usually suffice. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage argues that occasionally
using the full phrase “period of time” adds clarity, but I’m willing to bet that 19 times
out of 20 you can use either “period” or “time” without causing confusion, but if you run
into a sentence in which you really think you need it, go ahead.
I hope that helped, and if you live somewhere that observes daylight saving time, remember
to move your clocks forward Saturday night before you go to bed. International Women’s Day is March 8. On
this day, people around the world celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political
achievements of women. The first celebration was held in 1911, and the event was recognized
by the United Nations starting in 1975. It’s a little ironic, with all this in mind,
to think about the origin of the word “woman” because it’s a combination of the words
“wife” and “man.” You can see this if you look back at the Old
English spellings of this word. Spelling wasn’t consistent back then, so we see some variations:
wifmon, wifmanna, and wifmone, for example. But they’re all saying the same thing. An
adult, female woman is defined as “a man’s wife.” No two ways about it.
Over time, the words evolved. By the Middle English period, we see “wimman” and “wommon”
being used. And by the 1600s, the versions we know today were established: “woman,”
singular, and “women,” plural. Those middle forms, “wimman” and “wommon”
with the two M’s in the middle remind me of Noah Webster’s efforts to simplify English
spelling by suggesting changing the spelling “woman” to “wimmen.” W-I-M-M-E-N,
to have the spelling better match the pronunciation. “Wimmen.” That was in his 1806 Compendious
Dictionary of the English Language dictionary, but it didn’t catch on.
One thing that’s also interesting is that before the advent of “wifmon,” there was
another word for a female, adult woman: “quaen.” This word has the same Indo-European base
as the Sanskrit “jani,” and the Ancient Greek “gynē.”
Although “quaen” started out as meaning “a female,” it’s meaning degraded over
time. By the early Middle English period, it was a term of abuse, meaning a bold or
impudent woman — or a prostitute. At the same time, “quaen” evolved into
the word “queen,” which we use today to refer to the female ruler of an independent
state. That’s a pretty big dichotomy. Maybe the lesson to take from all this is
that the role of women in society has always been complex.  Whatever the case, your tidbit
for today is this: the word “woman” was originally a compound of “wife” and “man.” That meaning
disappeared over time, and today “woman” simply means “an adult female.” That segment was written by Samantha Enslen
who runs Dragonfly Editorial. You can find her at or on Twitter
as @DragonflyEdit. Finally, I have a familect story from Mary
Cecelia Jackson. She’s the author of the book “Sparrow,” and she told a shortened
version of this story in a Q&A she has coming out on my website at,
and when I read it, I thought it was so great that I asked her to call it in. Hey, Grammar Girl. This is Mary Cecilia Jackson,
author of “Sparrow,” and I’m going to tell you about a made-up word that is special
to me and my family. When my youngest son was very small, maybe three or four years
old, he’d climb up next to me wherever I was sitting and tell me that he wanted to
sit “benext” me. “Benext” was his mash up of “beside” and “next to,”
but over time I learned that it had a deeper meaning. My little boys sat benext to me whenever
he was tired or scared or needed some mom snuggles or wanted me to tell him the story.
Sometimes he sat benext me just because he knew I’d listen to him tell me all the many
reasons why he liked Thomas the Tank Engine and Blue’s Clues. Benext in our family never
described simple spacial proximity. It was a word that meant “I want to be near you
because I love you and you make me feel safe and happy.” That child is 26 years old now.
6 foot five, a bearded body builder and personal trainer. Now when he sits beside me, I remember
the little boy he used to be, and I know that we’re still benext each other and always will
be. Thanks, Grammar Girl. Bye.” Thanks, Mary Cecelia. That’s a wonderful
story, and I love the word “benext.” I actually looked it up in the OED because I
thought it might be an archaic word that we just don’t use anymore, but it’s not there.
Your son truly did make it up. If you want to share your family dialect story,
the story of a word your family and only your family uses, leave a voicemail at 83-321-4-GIRL,
and you might hear it on the show. I’m Mignon Fogarty, author of the New York
Times bestseller “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.” Subscribe
to the audio podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever
you listen. And thanks to my producer Nathan Semes. That’s
all. Thanks for listening. And thanks for watching. Bye.

3 thoughts on “Grammar Girl #761. Daylight Saving Time. The Origin of the Words ‘Woman’ and ‘Queen.’

  1. Thank you 🙏

  2. I always learn from you — always thought it was daylight savingS time! Thank you! And i love you on video! 💖

  3. Saying that "woman" meant "a man's wife" (no way around it) isn't really accurate. "Man" in Old English was the general word for "human person," and was applied to males and females. There were compound forms "waepman" and "wifman" to distinguish adult males and females, and the words continued to adapt from there. While modern use of the word "man" to denote all humans is not acceptable, it did not start out with an inherently sexist meaning. See Danesi:

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