21:33

No risk of being 12 hours late for your train in Europe, where train times are shown on the 24-hour clock.

No risk of being 12 hours late for your train in Europe: train times are shown on the 24-hour clock.

One little thing that has been getting on my nerves since I returned to the US is the American way of telling time. Meaning this whole AM/PM business.

In most European countries (indeed, in most countries in the world), the 24-hour clock is used. This shockingly logical system divides the day into, uh, 24 hours and runs from midnight to midnight, indicating how many hours have passed since midnight. So, 8:30 “AM” is 08:30, 12 “PM” (noon) is 12:00, 2:15 “PM” is 14:15, 8 “PM” is 20:00, and at 12 “AM” (midnight) the clock goes back to 00:00.

This is what Americans would refer to as “military time.” Well, maybe the military wisely uses it because it makes sense and avoids confusion? The 12-hour clock, on the other hand, is ambiguous, cumbersome, and downright annoying. My biggest pet peeve is trying to check train times online and getting the wrong results because I have failed to select “PM” from the drop-down menu.

It seems the US likes to stubbornly persist in using systems that are out of sync with the rest of the world, like the imperial system. Great if those systems are vastly superior. But they’re not. They’re just a pain in the butt.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “21:33

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  3. What’s really a pain in the butt, is when the train schedule says, like 17:45, and you look at your (analog) watch and it only goes up to 12. So you have to start doing this mental arithmetic, subtracting 12, so 17 is really 9 right? No wait, I think it’s 5. Didn’t Europeans invent clocks? Why did they invent 12 hour clocks and then use a 24 hour system? I guarantee in the military, when they want to storm that pill box at 3:00pm, they don’t say 1500 hours, they say 3:00pm.

    • Hahah, you gave me a laugh. Yes, I’ve been there. The worst is doing the math across the two systems. Although, I have done it so many times, I now know automatically in my head that 19:00 is 7 pm, 17:00 is 5 pm, etc.

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