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Fortnight

A discussion of word histories and origins.

Fortnight

Postby eberntson » Thu Aug 25, 2005 12:11 pm

What is the history of this word? I seem to remember studying American history and it was an English (Brit) term for the time a group of soldiers spend in the fort before the would be relieved by another garrison; 14 nights. Is that correct?
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Postby crichter » Thu Aug 25, 2005 12:30 pm

No, it's just a contraction of Old English "féowertýne niht". It dates back at least a thousand years, along with "sennight"--a week, or seven nights. Germanic peoples reckoned time by nights, rather than days.
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Postby tcward » Thu Aug 25, 2005 1:08 pm

Ancient civilzations as a rule measured things at the start of sunset, rather than sunrise.

-Tim
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Postby anders » Thu Aug 25, 2005 1:17 pm

And not so ancients.
Hindus consider that the day begins at sunrise. Muslims, like Jews, consider that the day begins at sunset. "The world was dark before it was light," they say, "and so the night should precede the day." In countries under Muslim rule, the watch is set at sunset, whichis 12 o'clock. Consequently an Englishman's Thursday night is a Muslim's Friday night. ... As Muslims in India use both the English ande Muslim systems, misunderstandings, even among Muslims themselves, are not infrequent. The night lasts till dawn: 3 A.M. is rāt ke tīn baje.


(The last sentence, word by word, is "night 's 3 o'clock".)

From Lt.-Col. D.C. Phillott, Hindustani Manual (1918).
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Postby Stargzer » Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:36 pm

crichter wrote:No, it's just a contraction of Old English "féowertýne niht". It dates back at least a thousand years, along with "sennight"--a week, or seven nights. Germanic peoples reckoned time by nights, rather than days.


And the French, of course, to be different, use the term quinze jours or fifteen days instead of fortnight.

Vive la diffénce! :)
Regards//Larry

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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:45 pm

What about quinzaine? Portuguese quinzena, Spanish quincena, Italian quindicina, Catalan quinzenada, but I understand your point: you count the days in groups of 14s, whereas we do in groups of 15s. Interesting...

14 days makes more sense to me, but we don't have such a word, I think.

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