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Dean Whitbread 2013

Dean Whitbread 2020

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Written on November 17, 2009, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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My Dear Americans,

(and non-Americans operating in the North American Cultural Zone)

It has come to our notice that you are habitually losing the letter "m" when referring to time, so that for example 11am becomes 11a, 11pm becomes 11p, etc.

This permutation causes confusion across the rest of the world (i.e. most of it) and in particular in the country from which your language originates, that being the United Kingdom of Britain, land of the English. One reason for this is that "p" is a common and long-established abbreviation used to denote PENCE, the smallest unit of currency. Referring to small amounts of currency in the context of time can only sow misery and failures of interpretion are bound to occur until you address this lazy habit. 11p won’t buy much you much in the UK these days – it’s worth about 19 cents.

It’s not as if you show any consistency. You have a contractive tendency, indeed you have chosen to drop the letter "u" in colour, valour, honour and neighbour, and we have accepted this. Yet, the reverse tendency is in the ascendent – much of the time, you add letters to perfectly serviceable words – for example, the verb to oblige, which you extend to become to obligate. One obliges, one is obliged, one is not obligated. It is very simple. Please remember this.

Cutting out the M doesn’t cut it, it only serves to upset and confuse.

May I remind you:


Ante Meridiem
Ante Meridian
Latin = "before midday"

Post Meridiem
Post Meridian
Latin = "after midday"

  I am obliged to point out that your continued use of English – our lasting legacy, the language we have bequeathed to the world, the second most spoken language, capable of great subtlety and shades of meaning, possessed of unparalleled expressive power, the glue which binds together the largest democracy, that great nation of India, whose use of English eclipses all others – requires you to be more than ordinarily aware of others who share with you this beautiful gift.

Americans: we, the community of nations, already suffer your problematic refusal to adopt a date format which lists time logically from smallest unit (day) to largest (year). Are you aware how much this isolates you? We respect nonetheless, your choice to be illogical, and have become adept at switching to day/month/year, or to avoid confusing you, year/month/day, both of which formulations are far more commonplace than your own.

So, Americans, if you are going to use the 12 hour clock, I urge you to resist the lazy habit of shortening time’s descriptor – dropping the "m" in AM and PM won’t buy you any favours this side of the world.

If you warp English beyond international function, you will in due course inhabit an English language backwater, speaking a dialect understood by only a few hundred million, while literate, fluent, connected nations about you flourish. Or, of course, you will end up speaking Spanish.

Posted via email from Dean Whitbread

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