unreal time


The term “real time” has become such a part of English that we have forgotten how unreal it sounds. Earlier this month, Google announced it would be adding real-time information to its search results, and we already expect real-time information about all sorts of other things: traffic, weather, stock quotes, flight tracking – for some reason, we feel we need to know about all the boring hassles of our lives with split-second precision. But when we’re telling stories, when we’re sharing personal, emotional information, we rely on “unreal times.” We want times that relate to experiences, not to abstractions. We’ve always had flexible times in English (lunch time, teatime, nap time) and times that, while tethered to the clock, convey much more than flashing numbers can get across: midnight, high noon. And there are other times – just as real, in a sense – that have never seen a clock, much less a traffic-and-weather update. If you listen (especially online, the Disneyland of data for the language researcher!), you can find a whole clock full of unreal times.

more from Erin McKean at The Boston Globe here.