Physical Science - Other

How Long is a Fortnight

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"How Long is a Fortnight"
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How long is a fortnight? The very question is odd to a British mind, since (archaic as it may be) the word is still in common English usage on this side of the pond. Indeed we still speak of "Factory Fortnight" as being the two weeks at the beginning of summer when all of the factories closed to allow their workers the annual trip to the seaside. This seems so "Thomas Hardy" but it was still prevalent only 20-or-so years ago.

Such compounds aside, it is still the everyday phrase: in a fortnight's time, Tuesday fortnight, we're going for a fortnight, a fortnight's holiday we hardly ever say "two weeks".

So how long is it then?

Fourteen nights (and days), two sennights, two weeks

A fortnight is eon in politics (given that a week "is a long time")

...forever while you're on holiday, but a split-second once you return

...time enough for a war to be fought twice over (cf June 1967)

...or for a war to be averted (Cuban missile crisis 1962)

...the time it takes to pickle an onion

...half the time it takes to get over the embarrassment of being "pickled"

...scarcely time enough to live

...but too long to take to die

...nearly half of Lent time to repay

...half a month of misery

...or 1.2million seconds of joy

...time enough to lose a friend

...or long enough to fall in love


More about this author: Lesley Mason

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