Friday, 25 December 2015

"What it does out at sea, no one can tell..."

"Supposing on Tuesday, it is morning in London; in another hour it would be Tuesday morning in the West of England; if the whole world were land we might go on tracing Tuesday morning, Tuesday morning all the way round, till, in twenty-four hours we got to London again. But we know that at London twenty-four hours after Tuesday morning it is Wednesday morning. Where, then, in its passage round the earth, does the day change its name? Where does it lose its identity?

"Practically there is no difficulty in it, because a great part of the journey is over water, and what it does out at sea no one can tell: and besides, there are so many different languages that it would be hopeless to attempt to trace the name of any one day all the year round. But is the case inconceivable that the same land and the same language should continue all round the world? I cannot see that it is: in that case either there would be no distinction at all between each successive day, and so week, month, etc., so that we should have to say "The Battle of Waterloo happened today, about two million hours ago", or some line would have to be fixed where the change should take place, so that the inhabitants of one house would wake and say "Heigh-ho, Tuesday morning!" and the inhabitants of the next (over the line), a few miles to the west would wake a few minutes afterwards and say "Heigh-ho, Wednesday morning!" What hopeless confusion the people who happened to live on the line would be in, is not for me to say. There would be a quarrel every morning as to what the name of the day should be.

"I can imagine no third case, unless everybody was allowed to choose for themselves, which state of things would be rather worse than either of the other two."

- Lewis Carroll, from The Rectory Umbrella, c. 1850.

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