Norwegian time

As a consequence of a debate I had with some colleagues on the way home, I’m writing an article about how time is told here in Norway, since it felt weird at the beginning, considering my Romanian background.

It all started with the fact that when they say ‘Half three’ for example, it doesn’t mean half past three, it means half to three. Unlike in Romanian or in English, where a half defines the time that has passed since the 00, and not prior to that. And for extra entertainment, minutes between XX:20 and XX:40 (or maybe 15 and 45, not quite sure) are sometimes told as ‘3 minutes to half three’ meaning 2:27. It’s quite an easy trick, if you think of it, to keep your mind occupied with a bit of maths, but it always adds long pauses in the conversation between a native speaker and someone who’s learning the language, since the later stops to play a bit with numbers. Oh, and speaking of numbers, they reference the numbers between 20 and 100 as, for example, 6 and thirty (aka 36).

In the debate today, the example given was ‘when you say you eat half a bread, you don’t mean a bread and a half’ – a bread and a half implying the Romanian/English way where you start with the unit and add a half. But on the other hand, you started with one full bread – else it would be quite a challenge to eat half of zero bread. And from its start til its half, you ate half of it. If you come to think of it, a logic may be found in the way of rounding the positive numbers, since you round to the next higher number, hence tit might make sense to say the half left TO the next hour rather than the one which just passed. On the other hand, if you ever consider that there was a time 0, before which it was only the scary nothing, then Norwegian system fails since there can’t be a half hour prior to that.

I heard the same system is used in German language. No idea about other Germanic languages though, but just in case you ever have a time-related misunderstanding with a Thor’s descendant, don’t take it personally. Not even half of it.

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