Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And Now, For The Word Nerds

Thanks to Special Agent and Chief Shifting Proponent Me&theboys (and breaking a promise made in paragraph 2 of an old post), you may now enjoy this lovely piece of prose:

Spelling and grammar

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Because of this, it would be more accurate to refer to DST as daylight-saving time. Similar examples would be a mind-expanding book or a man-eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, and Daylight Time Shifting more accurate, but neither is politically desirable.

By the way, change your clocks this coming Sunday if you're in the EU, and next Sunday if you're in the US, unless you're in Indiana, in which case, you'd better consult Mr. Riley and his very tiny governor.

More DST info here. Great clouds! Don't miss the one labeled "Assault on Logic" under "Controversy," for example.


Doghouse Riley said...

Indiana! Land of the Midnight Sun!

By the way, while I am, in the main, sympathetic to many forms of grammarian quibbling, this one leaves me in the dark. To my ear "Daylight Savings" is an adjectival phrase, DST being the Time when we make (artificial) Savings of Daylight, not a single episode of genuine saving. Such savings can be banked; I can come home from work and mow the lawn, because it's still light out, and avoid doing so on the weekend. Similarly, I have a Savings account, or used to, before the Bush administration, and using a coupon may result in a savings of $1, even though I haven't really saved anything.

Plus it's what people say, innit? More like a trade-mark. It's like arguing about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dan Weston said...

I parse "Daylight Savings" (stress on the "Sav" syllable) as a noun phrase in apposition to "Time" with restrictive force. Were "Saving" a mere participle, it should be hyphenated: "Daylight-saving Time" (with stress on the "Day" syllable).

They both have similar denotation, but the second is a stronger bond and connotes (if not implies) that Time is the agent, not merely the context, of the saving. Native speakers intrinsically reject such an implication, and prefer the less-freighted appositive form.