STRANGE MAPS.

I’ve referred to it before, but Frank Jacobs’s Strange Maps site really deserves a post of its own. My initial impetus was the latest entry, “It’s 10:15 in Germany. Do You Know Where Your Isoglosses Are?,” perfect for LH with its clear presentation of the areas of the German-speaking world that say viertel nach zehn, viertel elf, viertel ab zehn, and viertel über zehn for 10:15. (As lagniappe, it throws in a map of the many words for indoor slippers.) But scroll down and admire the maps of Clapham Common (“Ground Zero of the Saints”), Europe’s Many Midpoints (“Early 1900s: German geographers concluded that Europe’s midpoint was not located in the Austro-Hungarian Empire but in – what a surprise – Germany: near the Frauenkirche in Dresden”), Nazis Up the Mississippi And Other Axis Invasion Scenarios, and Fanlands: Football Supporter Map of London (the post includes as well the strikingly simple Barassi Line dividing Australia between followers of Australian rules football and rugby football). And there’s hundreds more where those came from. If you’re at all interested in geographical visualization, you need this site bookmarked.

Comments

  1. I can remember saying “quarter of ten” as a boy, but I can’t now remember whether we meant “quarter to” or “quarter past”. I wonder when I forgot.
    “At the back of ten” was nicely unambiguous and usefully imprecise: I still use it.

  2. In my experience “quarter of” means the same as “quarter to”.
    You can also say “ten of”, or “five of” or “twenty of” (in each case, with the option of “to” instead of “of”). But you can’t say “fifteen of [or to]“. And if it’s thirty minutes before 10 you can’t say “thirty of [or to] 10″, or “half of [or to] 10″; you have to say “half past 9″. Or “half 10″ if you’re British.
    I knew a guy in college, from Colorado, who said “quarter till”.

  3. It seems to be that the English have taken to saying ‘half-eight’ when they mean ‘half-past eight’. Unfortunately, this conflicts with what I learnt in German long ago, where halb acht means 7:30… (I hope I’ve got it right)

  4. Oh yes, I think I’ve got the English expression wrong, and probably by confusion with the German expression.

  5. And then there is the unique Cantonese way of telling the time.
    Instead of saying ‘a quarter past ten’ or ‘a quarter to ten’, the Cantonese apparently say ‘ten three’ and ‘ten nine’. The ‘three’ and ‘nine’ refer to the digits on the dial of your watch. That is how you get ‘three’ meaning ‘a quarter past’. I can’t remember the exact wording that they use, and here in China for some reason the results of Google searches frequently come up as ‘page inaccessible’, so it’s difficult to find the information that I want.
    (Despite what the 愤青 (‘angry youth’, read ‘chauvinistic young nationalists’) might tell you, Baidu is not up to Google as a search engine, which makes my life on the Internet in China pretty frustrating. Luckily I go back to Mongolia tomorrow.)

  6. Found a source!
    http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/time.htm
    Look at the left column for examples of colloquial Cantonese usage. The right column gives standard Chinese usage.
    E.g., 1:05 becomes (left column):
    一點一 jat1 dim2 jat1 (literally ‘one o’clock one’).
    Compare Standard Chinese (which is also used in telling the time in Cantonese) in the right column:
    一點零五分 jat1 dim2 ling4 ng5 fan1 (literally ‘one o’clock zero five minutes’).

  7. viertel über zehn for 10:15
    ??!! Now I see that it occurs only in Austria: “Another national Option is viertel über zehn (‘quarter over ten’), used only in central parts of Austria (5).” But I have to admit that it makes sense.
    Ø: I knew a guy in college, from Colorado, who said “quarter till”.
    I say that. Possibly I picked it up from my parents, both of whom hail from Mississippi.

  8. I had a Norwegian friend in England who missed an appointment because of the hour’s difference between the Norwegian halv elve and the English “half eleven” (Norwegian being like the German and, I read, Catalan). In Norway I say to my family “halv elve, ten thirty”, just to make sure we’re in agreement.
    I’d forgotten about the map site. I love it. Have there been such things as “outdoor slippers” since Shakespeare’s sixth age shifted into the lean & slippered pantaloon (which I’d always assumed were outdoor)?

  9. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’ve had it bookmarked for ages. It’s one of my favourite sites — one that I go to immediately whenever Google Reader tells me it has something new. I particularly liked the one about the commune boundaries of Liechtenstein, which are seriously weird for such a small country. Unfortunately they’ve messed* up the search function since moving to a new host, so searching for “Liechtenstein” won’t work, but it’s at http://bigthink.com/ideas/21375
    *Your own host wouldn’t allow the word I had here originally.

  10. My Grandfather, born in Victorian London, used to say five and twenty past (or to) the hour. It didn’t survive his generation as far as I know.
    I wish I could now remember more of the words and phrases ‘globe’ for light bulb for example that were relics of his age but they’ve all gone,along with his collar-studs and meat-safe.

  11. “‘half-eight’ when they mean ‘half-past eight’”: yes, I still use that.

  12. @ Ø: “I knew a guy in college, from Colorado, who said “quarter till”.
    I didn’t go to college in Colorado, but that is what I say (Southern AmE).

  13. Does “five-and-twenty past”, the four-and-twenty blackbirds method of counting, have any direct connection to the similar method used in German, Norwegian etc., or is it coincidence?

  14. “four-and-twenty”: are you thinking of this old favourite?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXiwkz-t5H4

  15. I say that. Possibly I picked it up from my parents, both of whom hail from Mississippi.
    I say it too, possibly picked up from my father’s side of the family (Arkie/Okie).

  16. I’d like to see a cartwheeling, mini kilt-wearing Kenneth MacKellar sing a disco version of that in this year’s Eurovision song contest.

  17. My Grandfather, born in Victorian London, used to say five and twenty past (or to) the hour. It didn’t survive his generation as far as I know.
    I think it did. It sounds a little old-fashioned but otherwise unexceptional to me. I am pretty sure that is because I have heard it used by family members (Birmingham, UK) born long after Victoria died.

  18. J. W. Brewer says:

    I was taught “virtel nach zehn” in ninth-grade German back at the end of the 70′s. Is that also the theoretical uniform/prestige Hochdeutsch standard or simply one contending regional variant? But what I think of as the Urheimat of prestige Hochdeutsch (Upper Saxony) is shown as solid “viertel elf” territory on the map. The only part of Germany I ever spent meaningful time in (summer ’82 in Neu-Ulm, so Swabia right on the Bavarian bank of the Danube) is I think shown as “viertel elf” territory (although the more Bavarian part of Bavaria is back to “nach zehn”) but I actually don’t recall encountering that usage. How do those people say 10:45? Drei-viertel elf?

  19. Crown: No coincidence at all; the “five and twenty” style is a direct Germanic inheritance. A little googling showed me a 71-year-old Englishman still using it in 2008.

  20. J.W.: How do those people say 10:45? Drei-viertel elf?
    Just so. And not only “those people”.
    Is that also the theoretical uniform/prestige Hochdeutsch standard or simply one contending regional variant?
    It’s a variant, but there’s no contention. It would take a bold silly-billy to publish an article in Germany with the aim of talking up certain ways that people have of telling the time, and talking down the others. No matter how often German pundits scuffle over dative-versus-genitive matters, they don’t take up arms against the time of day.

  21. It seems to be that the English have taken to saying ‘half-eight’ when they mean ‘half-past eight’. Unfortunately, this conflicts with what I learnt in German long ago, where halb acht means 7:30…
    Dutch follows the continental Chermanic convention, of course. But “half februari” does *not* in fact mean the middle of january, and they keep refusing to tell me why not.

  22. UK “half four” = US “quarter of eight”

  23. It’s interesting to see that the viertel elf, drei viertel elf region in Austria is along the border with Hungary. In Hungarian the quarter-hours are expressed in the same way (negyed 11, háromnegyed 11, where negyed = 1/4, három = 3).

  24. Very interesting indeed!

  25. David Marjanović says:

    Federal Chemistry Olympics of 2000. The teacher wanted us to meet again at 14:15. Being Viennese, he said viertel drei. Most others thought that must mean viertel nach drei (15:15). The Tyroleans thought they had misheard viertel vor drei (14:45), which is dreiviertel drei elsewhere. Several minutes of fun confusion ensued.
    Viertel über is, in Austria at least, rather restricted; I think it’s limited to southern Upper Austria.

    halb acht means 7:30

    Correct.

    the Urheimat of prestige Hochdeutsch

    There is no such thing. The dialects in Saxony are closer to the standard than most others in many respects, but… I’ll stop here before spending an hour on the complications. :-)

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Oh yeah, I didn’t know about Hungarian; that’s fascinating. I wonder what other Sprachbund features than this, curses, and a bit of phonology there are.

  27. I am surprised, given the Russophones who frequent here, that no one has mentioned that time in Russian is similar to Eastern German and Hungarian – you say “pol vtorogo” (half of two) for 1:30 and you say “chetvert’ vtorogo” (a quarter of two) for 1:15. I have never heard “tri chetverti vtorogo” for 1:45 though, that would be “dva chasa bez chetverti” (Two o’clock without a quarter).

  28. On reflection, I should have mentioned that Russian uses ordinal numbers for hours rather than cardinal. I.e. you say “half of the third” (hour being implied) or “quarter of the third”, which to English speakers may seem more logical than “half three” or “quarter three”, which is the literal translation of the German expression.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    Oops. The map says viertel über is less restricted and more scattered than I had thought.
    I should have known about Russian, but didn’t.
    Mandarin counts back from 29 minutes to the full hour, using chá “lack”.

  30. Mandarin counts back from 29 minutes to the full hour, using chá “lack”.
    Actually 差 chà, I think. And the chà theoretically comes before the hour, e.g., 差一刻十点 chà yí-kè shí-diǎn ‘quarter to ten’. Except that I don’t think I’ve heard many people actually talk this way…

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