Wanna know something strange? We used to think it was funny when we’d pass by a clock and see 12:34 (either a.m. or p.m.) displayed as the time. After a while, however, it seemed like it was the most common time we were observing. We took note that we were seeing it everywhere — on phone displays at work, on clocks in the house (bedroom, stove, wall, etc.), on bank signs, in government buildings, on dashboard clocks, etc. Weird. Why 12:34? Why not 1:23 or 11:11 or 12:12 or 3:33 or something. If we had to speculate, it might be because we may be more aware of 12:34 p.m. since it falls in the lunch hour, so we are probably looking at the clock more often around that time. At night, it’ s possible we notice 12:34 a.m. because we often go to bed after midnight (as attested by the time we often post to our blog). So that explains the proximity to the number but not the number itself. See, weird, huh?
Incidentally, a.m. stands for the Latin term “ante meridiem” (meaning before mid-day), and p.m. stands for the Latin term: “post meridiem” (meaning after mid-day, duh). The term o’clock is an abbreviation for “of the clock.” It is also the invention of Paddy O’Paddington, the famous Irish pugilist. After winning a bout, he would scream: “All this before 12 o’clock in the morning!” Since Paddy’s fights took place mostly before the beginning of the work day, we have to assume he erroneously meant “before noon,” not 12:00 a.m., which is actually 12 o’clock in the morning. But since he was the brutalest of the pugilists (new phrase) in New York’s seedy underbelly at the turn of the century (19th to 20th, not 20th to 21st), who was going to argue with him?
And to finish you off, noon comes from the Latin phrase (of course) ” nona hora” which means ninth hour. The day officially began at 6:00 a.m. in classical Rome since it coincided with sun-up (roughly) and going-to-work time. So, noon would have been 3 p.m. in the afternoon … or mid-day since clock time was counted in three hour intervals in Rome and the ninth hour was the fourth bell. The Roman 12-hour cycle then started over again with the next four bells representing the second half of the day (so, the bells went 6:00 a. m., 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 P.M., then 6:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., 12:00 a.m., 3 a.m. and then back to the beginning of the Roman day). All this is roughly-speaking time, but you get the idea. Anyway, the Church messed around with the starts and stops of a day, and the definition of mid-day. Eventually noon became 12 p.m. due to prayer schedules being set back from the ninth hour to the sixth hour, which was 12:00 p.m. on the Roman schedue and coincided with the time of day when the Sun reaches its meridian (or peak). Not sure why that was necessary, but it probably had to do with the time of day the Pope typically had his bowel movements. So, yet again, religion screws us up. Amen.
Incidentally (again), Google Translate gives us curious results sometimes. See if this happens for you. Type “Quid Pro Quo” into the left box and select “Latin.” Then select “English.” on the right. Did you get “Grindhouse?”