Etiquette Hell

A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. Guests, register for forum membership to see all the boards. => Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange => Topic started by: Iris on September 08, 2012, 07:52:07 PM

Title: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Iris on September 08, 2012, 07:52:07 PM
Reading the facebook comments on the Dear Prudence column last week two separate posters commented on a letter writer who'd used the word "fortnight" with quite a bit of hostility. One said that they'd "poke" her and the other accused her of being pompous. At the time I thought it was weird, and also weird that no other commenters asked what on earth was wrong with them, but I just figured we'd all gotten clever about not feeding trolls. :) Now in the "They looked at me funny..." thread another poster has said that they had to *explain* the word fortnight to someone while travelling in the US.

So my question is - is fortnight a 'big' or unusual word where you come from? The above things really surprised me. I would have thought using the word 'fortnight' was no more unusual than using the word 'week' - or 'food' or 'shoe' or 'duck' for that matter  ;). It's just another word to me, one that I would have expected to be in pretty much everyone's vocabulary.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Betelnut on September 08, 2012, 07:57:27 PM
People in the U.S. don't use that word--it would only be familiar to those of us who read British literature.  We would never use it in conversation.  Never.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sharnita on September 08, 2012, 08:02:37 PM
People in the U.S. don't use that word--it would only be familiar to those of us who read British literature.  We would never use it in conversation.  Never.

It is pretty much like talking about weight in "stone".  To be honest I think a lot of people might find it a bit pretentious coming from another American.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: oz diva on September 08, 2012, 08:03:50 PM
In Australia it's absolutely common, I wouldn't think a thing about someone saying I'll see you in a fortnight then. But I do know that it's not used in the States.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: HorseFreak on September 08, 2012, 08:07:45 PM
I'm in the US and have only heard the word used in literature. It's considered a "big" word that you may seem a tad pretentious using in regular conversation. I'm around 30 and I'm very aware of the definition, but those from a younger generation or who don't read much may not know what it means.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sharnita on September 08, 2012, 08:12:57 PM
I don't know that I'd say it is a big word but rather that it overly complicates things.  If I talk about time I say that it took a week or I will see you for a week.  It seems kind of silly to switch from talking about week(s) to fortnight.  It lacks continuity.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: baglady on September 08, 2012, 08:40:42 PM
It isn't used in the U.S. I only know it from British literature and songs. I'll occasionally throw such Britishisms as "loo" and "telly" into my own speech for variety, but I don't do that with "fortnight."
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: violinp on September 08, 2012, 08:42:34 PM
I'm American, and I use it sometimes, but not often. I don't see it as pretentious, but it's just not a word I hear every day.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Outdoor Girl on September 08, 2012, 08:44:45 PM
Those of us in North America who read British literature are used to reading 'fortnight' and 'stone' but they aren't words we use here, even north of the border where we have a closer tie to the UK.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Yvaine on September 08, 2012, 08:57:55 PM
It is definitely not used in conversation in my area (midwestern US). I think I learned it from a book of fairy tales, and to this day I've mostly seen it in the fantasy fiction I've read. It's a word you might use when you're writing, to sound pretty and old-timey, but if you dropped it into conversation, probably only the avid readers would even know how many days you meant.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Yvaine on September 08, 2012, 08:59:26 PM
I don't know that I'd say it is a big word but rather that it overly complicates things.  If I talk about time I say that it took a week or I will see you for a week. 

Or two.  ;D
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: MummyPumpkin83 on September 08, 2012, 09:01:21 PM
I don't know that I'd say it is a big word but rather that it overly complicates things.  If I talk about time I say that it took a week or I will see you for a week.  It seems kind of silly to switch from talking about week(s) to fortnight.  It lacks continuity.

and see for me at least as an aussie it is completely "continuous" to say will you stay a week or a fortnight? everyone knows 2 weeks = fortnight and fortnight is quicker to say.
Also you get your government payments "fortnightly"
when you use the online Australian government tax calculator you can select that you get paid "weekly", "fortnightly" or "monthly".
If you rent your house the amount you pay is a "per week" amount, but again you can negotiate to pay it "weekly", "fortnightly", or "monthly". - actually most repayments to banks I think you can elect one of the three options above.

until e-hell i didn't realise "fortnight" was such an unusual word. it is used so often here.

also now I have written it so many times it looks very weird :)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sharnita on September 08, 2012, 09:07:06 PM
I don't know that I'd say it is a big word but rather that it overly complicates things.  If I talk about time I say that it took a week or I will see you for a week. 

Or two.  ;D

Yeah, I meant to say that when I'm talking about a week I say a week so when I extend that into two weeks it seems strange to alter that to fortnight.  I would continue to use the same measurement that I'd use for a smaller amount of time.  Going from one week to fortnight for two weeks seems like I am shifting usage.

as far as being quicker to say, fortnight and two weeks are both two syllables. " I will see you in two weeks" is actually a tiny bit quicker than"I will see you in a fortnight"
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: MrsJWine on September 08, 2012, 09:07:13 PM
I'm in the US. I'm not sure I've ever heard it in conversation, but I see it in writing all the time. Not just in British literature or older books, either.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Iris on September 08, 2012, 09:22:37 PM
I don't know that I'd say it is a big word but rather that it overly complicates things.  If I talk about time I say that it took a week or I will see you for a week. 

Or two.  ;D

Yeah, I meant to say that when I'm talking about a week I say a week so when I extend that into two weeks it seems strange to alter that to fortnight.  I would continue to use the same measurement that I'd use for a smaller amount of time.  Going from one week to fortnight for two weeks seems like I am shifting usage.

as far as being quicker to say, fortnight and two weeks are both two syllables. " I will see you in two weeks" is actually a tiny bit quicker than"I will see you in a fortnight"

Wow. How interesting this is. I had no idea. Not to pick on you at all Sharnita, just using your post as a random example, but it is so common here (Australia) that *to us* saying it's confusing to change from weeks to fortnights would be like saying it's confusing to change from 500 grams to half a kilo.

Then again I can remember my grandmother explaining 'old' currency to me and I thought it was insanely complicated and difficult whereas she was like "It's no big deal" so I guess it's what you're used to.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Iris on September 08, 2012, 09:23:51 PM
Now that I'm on the track: What about other time related words like 'annual' or 'biannual' etc? Common? Not common?
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sharnita on September 08, 2012, 09:24:56 PM
Iris, to me it would be more like shifting from dollars to euros.

ETA: annual is part of common usage and I guess biannual is too, though there is very little I can think of that I am involved in that is biannual so I don't know that I hear it myself a whole lot.

Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Iris on September 08, 2012, 09:33:53 PM
Iris, to me it would be more like shifting from dollars to euros.

I got that (I think), it's just that I find it fascinating, and I'm trying to find a way to be fascinated politely without making people feel patronised. There's really no way to express surprise that someone doesn't know/commonly use something without sounding rude, even when it is entirely reasonable that different cultures have different common usages. For example in Australia using "et" as the past tense of "eat" would be ignorant and show a poor vocabulary, but it is common usage in the UK - at least with the (very not ignorant) people I know. I'm sure there are many reverse examples.

I'm like a dog with a bone when I find a genuinely totally new (to me) fact and I find that it's hard for that to come across without people taking it the wrong way. Usually I just don't ask all the questions I want to, so I'm just vaguely hoping that you guys know me well enough to indulge my nerdiness.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Pippen on September 08, 2012, 09:38:40 PM
It's common here as well. No one would consider it 'big' or snobby by any means. You might get paid fortnightly, you might do something in a fortnights time, someone might come and stay for a fortnight.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Yvaine on September 08, 2012, 09:40:50 PM
Now that I'm on the track: What about other time related words like 'annual' or 'biannual' etc? Common? Not common?

Annual, biannual, weekly, biweekly are all common.

ETA that the catch with biannual is that some people use it to mean 2x per year and some use it to mean biennial, every 2 years. So you have to figure out which one they mean!
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sharnita on September 08, 2012, 09:42:13 PM
I don't know about anybody else but I am not offended.  It isn't that I don't know what it means it is just that I find it a bit dated and cumbersome and kind of pointless I guess. Like I said, I wouldn't talk about weight in tone or measure years in "score" anymore either. It's kinda like the monarchy - glad if it works for other people, know how it works but as an American it really is not something that is part of my cultural identity.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Tilt Fairy on September 08, 2012, 10:02:33 PM
Im British so fortnight (=two weeks) is pretty common to say. I never say two weeks - I'll always say (e.g.) "once a fortnight". It's pretty common. Most people here say fortnight instead of two weeks.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Steve on September 09, 2012, 05:41:10 AM
I went to the US as an exchangestudent. When I used the word my hostmother kept insisting that the word did not exist, she claimed I made it up. I even got in to some trouble because of it.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Redsoil on September 09, 2012, 06:31:03 AM
If you really want to freak people out, try using this one, instead of "a week".




sen·night
   [sen-ahyt, -it]

noun Archaic  - a week.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Origin:
before 1000; Middle English sevenyht, seoveniht ( e ),  sennyght,  etc., Old English seofon nihta. See seven, night
 
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: CakeBeret on September 09, 2012, 08:08:33 AM
I've only ever seen fortnight in historical books and never heard it spoken aloud. I didn't even know that it meant two weeks until recently. I would be puzzled if a fellow American used it, but if a Brit or Australian used it I would get it.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: camlan on September 09, 2012, 08:17:52 AM
I've never used it myself. My friends would understand it, but I'd be seen as pretentious if I were to say it in ordinary conversation.

I've read it in books since I was a kid. Every so often, I see it in writing here in the US, but it is not very common.

It'd be useful if we adopted it. What we have instead is the seldom used biweekly, which can mean twice a week or every other week. If we used fortnight for two weeks, biweekly could be used for twice a week, and a lot of confusion would end.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: katycoo on September 09, 2012, 09:15:37 AM
Another Aussie backing up fortnight as way common.  "2 weeks" still gets used but thinking about it, it depends little on what I'm talking about.

Eg: My salary is paid fortnightly, never 2-weekly or bi-weekly.

I will go on holidays for 2 weeks but not for a fortnight.

I will have dinner with you both in a fortnight or in 2 weeks.

Hmm. Interesting.

Now that I'm on the track: What about other time related words like 'annual' or 'biannual' etc? Common? Not common?

I'm going to say bi-annual is uncommon.  In fact, I think a lot of people would have to think about whether or not that meant "once every 2 years" or "twice a year".

Annual is very common though.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Thipu1 on September 09, 2012, 10:45:20 AM
'Fortnight' isn't used here in ordinary conversation but everybody with a High School education knows what it means. 
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: WillyNilly on September 09, 2012, 01:51:38 PM
I have never heard someone actually say "fortnight" and would think they were trying to showy or something if they did (unless they clearly were from another country, like they had an accent for mentioned they were only visiting, etc) in which case I would simply think it was a weird word to use.

I've heard of it and seen it used on this site... and honestly it never occurred to me it was a normal word and I thought posters were trying to use it as a way of making their posts seem more... I don't know like "see I can use this obscure word no one says, I'm so learned!"  I'm honestly shocked its actually a common word in other countries!  I know a handful of immigrants from Britain living here in the states and like I said earlier I have never heard the word uttered in conversation, ever.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: NyaChan on September 09, 2012, 01:55:23 PM
'Fortnight' isn't used here in ordinary conversation but everybody with a High School education knows what it means.

Seriously?  I know what it means, but that knowledge has nothing to do with my High School education.  I would be shocked if more than 1/3 of HS seniors knew what fortnight meant.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Betelnut on September 09, 2012, 02:38:04 PM
'Fortnight' isn't used here in ordinary conversation but everybody with a High School education knows what it means.

Seriously?  I know what it means, but that knowledge has nothing to do with my High School education.  I would be shocked if more than 1/3 of HS seniors knew what fortnight meant.

I agree--in the U.S., you would have to be a reader (of British literature) to know the word.  Most people aren't readers.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: CaptainObvious on September 09, 2012, 03:08:54 PM
'Fortnight' isn't used here in ordinary conversation but everybody with a High School education knows what it means.

Seriously?  I know what it means, but that knowledge has nothing to do with my High School education.  I would be shocked if more than 1/3 of HS seniors knew what fortnight meant.

I've known what a fortnight was since I was a kid, and I grew up in California.

A brief for instance: We all watched "Upstairs, Downstairs", Masterpiece Theater, I also watched Monty Python and any other Britcom that I could find, and there are a million books I could, but then I had a rotten education...I learned more on my own than in any classroom...
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Zilla on September 09, 2012, 03:13:30 PM
While I never hear the word in a conversation, I have read it in all kinds of literature. And not just British.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: #borecore on September 09, 2012, 03:26:19 PM
I've never used it myself. My friends would understand it, but I'd be seen as pretentious if I were to say it in ordinary conversation.

I've read it in books since I was a kid. Every so often, I see it in writing here in the US, but it is not very common.

It'd be useful if we adopted it. What we have instead is the seldom used biweekly, which can mean twice a week or every other week. If we used fortnight for two weeks, biweekly could be used for twice a week, and a lot of confusion would end.

The problem is that it is really supposed to mean once every two weeks, and semiweekly is twice a week, but  that isn't taught anymore -- to the point where dictionaries say it can mean either. I find saying "once every two weeks" or "twice a week" is just way less confusing.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Barney girl on September 09, 2012, 03:43:08 PM
Linked into this is "twice". It always seemed odd to me when I read people saying something happened 'two times', then I realised that to them  " twice" sounds as archaic as " thrice would to me.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Betelnut on September 09, 2012, 07:08:49 PM
'Fortnight' isn't used here in ordinary conversation but everybody with a High School education knows what it means.

Seriously?  I know what it means, but that knowledge has nothing to do with my High School education.  I would be shocked if more than 1/3 of HS seniors knew what fortnight meant.

I've known what a fortnight was since I was a kid, and I grew up in California.

A brief for instance: We all watched "Upstairs, Downstairs", Masterpiece Theater, I also watched Monty Python and any other Britcom that I could find, and there are a million books I could, but then I had a rotten education...I learned more on my own than in any classroom...

Oh, good point!  PBS has taught many a US resident Britishy terms.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Yvaine on September 09, 2012, 08:55:01 PM
'Fortnight' isn't used here in ordinary conversation but everybody with a High School education knows what it means.

Seriously?  I know what it means, but that knowledge has nothing to do with my High School education.  I would be shocked if more than 1/3 of HS seniors knew what fortnight meant.

I've known what a fortnight was since I was a kid, and I grew up in California.

A brief for instance: We all watched "Upstairs, Downstairs", Masterpiece Theater, I also watched Monty Python and any other Britcom that I could find, and there are a million books I could, but then I had a rotten education...I learned more on my own than in any classroom...

Oh, good point!  PBS has taught many a US resident Britishy terms.

And Harry Potter. The sheer amount of British slang I know because of HP...
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: CakeEater on September 09, 2012, 10:35:33 PM
I have never heard someone actually say "fortnight" and would think they were trying to showy or something if they did (unless they clearly were from another country, like they had an accent for mentioned they were only visiting, etc) in which case I would simply think it was a weird word to use.

I've heard of it and seen it used on this site... and honestly it never occurred to me it was a normal word and I thought posters were trying to use it as a way of making their posts seem more... I don't know like "see I can use this obscure word no one says, I'm so learned!"  I'm honestly shocked its actually a common word in other countries!   I know a handful of immigrants from Britain living here in the states and like I said earlier I have never heard the word uttered in conversation, ever.

I'm actually honestly surprised that's it's not a word used in the US. We can share our shock!  ;)

I've just spent the last little while telling people I'll be away from home for a fortnight soon. Very timely thread!
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: kareng57 on September 09, 2012, 10:39:00 PM
I'm in Canada and have heard/learned a lot of British phrases.  I'd wager that most other Canadians have, as well.

Still, while I know what "fortnight" means, it's really not a common term here.  I could understand a recent UK ex-patriot using the the term - but for anyone else, I'd find it to be in eyebrow-raising territory.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Iris on September 10, 2012, 02:42:43 AM
So, so far this thread I've got UK, Australia, New Zealand yes, United States and Canada no. Can't be a colonial thing then since Canada is a no.

One of life's mysteries :)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Diane AKA Traska on September 10, 2012, 05:23:00 AM
Another US-based person here.  I've long known what a fortnight is (yay for RPGs!), but it's an obscure term at best over here.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Milash on September 10, 2012, 05:45:41 AM
I have never heard someone actually say "fortnight" and would think they were trying to showy or something if they did (unless they clearly were from another country, like they had an accent for mentioned they were only visiting, etc) in which case I would simply think it was a weird word to use.

I've heard of it and seen it used on this site... and honestly it never occurred to me it was a normal word and I thought posters were trying to use it as a way of making their posts seem more... I don't know like "see I can use this obscure word no one says, I'm so learned!"  I'm honestly shocked its actually a common word in other countries!   I know a handful of immigrants from Britain living here in the states and like I said earlier I have never heard the word uttered in conversation, ever.

I'm actually honestly surprised that's it's not a word used in the US. We can share our shock!  ;)

I've just spent the last little while telling people I'll be away from home for a fortnight soon. Very timely thread!

It was a surprise to me too that not all countries use it as I work in customer service and have to say it to every customer. (work in customer orders)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Outdoor Girl on September 10, 2012, 09:01:05 AM
So, so far this thread I've got UK, Australia, New Zealand yes, United States and Canada no. Can't be a colonial thing then since Canada is a no.

One of life's mysteries :)

Canada, although still a colony, is so heavily influenced by the US in media and television, I think it dilutes our British roots quite a bit.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: baglady on September 10, 2012, 11:30:08 PM
There are Britishisms that I throw into my own speech for variety (I mentioned telly and loo upthread), and those I know the meaning of but don't use. "Fortnight" definitely falls into that category, along with "bloke" and "stone."

Hmm, I just realized that "fortnight" = 14 days, and "stone" = 14 pounds. What is this British obsession with that number?  :)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Bluenomi on September 10, 2012, 11:41:54 PM
Another Aussie on the completely normal side. It's as common as week or month over here.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: JonGirl on September 11, 2012, 05:32:07 AM
Another Aussie on the completely normal side. It's as common as week or month over here.


Yeah, especially when you're on the Centrelink!!  :D
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Julian on September 15, 2012, 07:49:30 PM
... Now in the "They looked at me funny..." thread another poster has said that they had to *explain* the word fortnight to someone while travelling in the US.

 ;D  That would be me...  I just found this thread. 

Fascinating, isn't it, how countries with similar original language and roots can develope such different regional vocabularies?



Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Dindrane on September 15, 2012, 10:29:31 PM
I'm pretty sure that fortnight used to be more commonly used in the US, but it has fallen out of use in the past century or so. So to an American, probably the best comparison is the word "score" to mean "20." That was also in common use, particularly to describe years or age, a century ago. But except for the famous Gettysburg Address that begins "Fourscore and seven years ago," most Americans would never have any reason to know what it means.

With fortnight, I do agree that anyone who has had even a moderately rigorous education in literature in high school will have encountered the word. Not everyone would know what it means, but it does come up in both British and American literature. If my education is an example of anything, I had a year of American-focused literature and a year of British-focused literature, with a smattering of both mixed in to the other two literature classes I took in high school, and the vast majority of the assigned books were written at least 100 years ago.

So I'd personally find it weird for someone to argue the word doesn't exist at all, but I would find it equally weird to hear it in normal conversation.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Slartibartfast on September 15, 2012, 11:52:52 PM
I expect the majority of Americans could tell you a fortnight has something to do with time, but most couldn't tell you the exact definition.  Same with stone, furlong, knot, acre, etc.  I only know the first two because I read a lot of British books when I was a kid and the third because I read a lot of horse books  :P  I think I'd be hard-pressed to actually define an acre or a knot in terms of other measurement, although I know what things they're usually used to measure.

Then again, a significant percentage of Americans don't know how many states there are in the US, how many planets there are in the solar system, which direction Canada is, the metric system, the difference between "their" and "there," etc. so I wouldn't place a lot of trust in what "most Americans" know  ::)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Hmmmmm on September 16, 2012, 10:16:59 AM
I expect the majority of Americans could tell you a fortnight has something to do with time, but most couldn't tell you the exact definition.  Same with stone, furlong, knot, acre, etc.  I only know the first two because I read a lot of British books when I was a kid and the third because I read a lot of horse books  :P  I think I'd be hard-pressed to actually define an acre or a knot in terms of other measurement, although I know what things they're usually used to measure.

Then again, a significant percentage of Americans don't know how many states there are in the US, how many planets there are in the solar system, which direction Canada is, the metric system, the difference between "their" and "there," etc. so I wouldn't place a lot of trust in what "most Americans" know  ::)

I'm suprised you included acre in this group.. While I don't believe most Americans ca define the number of square feet in an acre, I think they are well aware of what it is and even a general idea of how large it would be.  I hear the word frequently.  Knot is also common in the nautical world, but if your not into sailing I wouldn't expect any one to know more than that it's used to measure boat speed.  But I agree that stone is uncommon and furlong only heard in horse racing.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Yvaine on September 16, 2012, 10:19:48 AM
I expect the majority of Americans could tell you a fortnight has something to do with time, but most couldn't tell you the exact definition.  Same with stone, furlong, knot, acre, etc.  I only know the first two because I read a lot of British books when I was a kid and the third because I read a lot of horse books  :P  I think I'd be hard-pressed to actually define an acre or a knot in terms of other measurement, although I know what things they're usually used to measure.

Then again, a significant percentage of Americans don't know how many states there are in the US, how many planets there are in the solar system, which direction Canada is, the metric system, the difference between "their" and "there," etc. so I wouldn't place a lot of trust in what "most Americans" know  ::)

I'm suprised you included acre in this group.. While I don't believe most Americans ca define the number of square feet in an acre, I think they are well aware of what it is and even a general idea of how large it would be.  I hear the word frequently.  Knot is also common in the nautical world, but if your not into sailing I wouldn't expect any one to know more than that it's used to measure boat speed.  But I agree that stone is uncommon and furlong only heard in horse racing.

I don't know how big an acre is off the top of my head, other than that it's used to measure land, often farmland. It falls into the same category as knots for me--I know what it's for, but not how much it actually is.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sharnita on September 16, 2012, 10:50:22 AM
I assume Yvaine is an urban dweller where home owners might buy lots that are much smaller than an acre or even a half acre.  Where I grew up most people owned land in acres - not just farmers.  You might have 2 wooded acres and one acre of lawn.  It was not unheard of for people to have 10, 20 or 40 acres even if they weren't farmers.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: WillyNilly on September 16, 2012, 01:35:42 PM
Like Yvaine, I also know "acre" as very abstract idea of a "big piece of land"; I don't actually have a clear idea in my how big an acre is.

I am an urban dweller who has also spent of time in the suburbs and even when I out in more rural areas I was more used to plots "in town" instead of the big pieces of land with acres of lawn.  More like 1/4 acre plots at most, or even plots so small acre is irrelevant.  I grew up in a neighborhood with "big" yards, our plots were 2560 square feet (80 x 40), I just googled an acre is 43560 square feet, so the whole thing, including the house was 1/17 of an acre - I can't casually picture in my mind an acre in just lawn.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Ms_Cellany on September 16, 2012, 01:39:52 PM
The only time I use the word is when I'm referring to speed in terms of "furlongs per fortnight."
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: #borecore on September 16, 2012, 04:56:26 PM
I've never heard "furlongs per fortnight" and could only guess it means something happening slowly.

I just asked my well-educated BF who reads pretty much constantly, and he had no idea how long a "fortnight" might be. Interesting. I would guess most people I know who don't read non-American, non-new literature often or who aren't editors would not know what a fortnight is.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Diane AKA Traska on September 16, 2012, 05:00:34 PM
Like Yvaine, I also know "acre" as very abstract idea of a "big piece of land"; I don't actually have a clear idea in my how big an acre is.

I am an urban dweller who has also spent of time in the suburbs and even when I out in more rural areas I was more used to plots "in town" instead of the big pieces of land with acres of lawn.  More like 1/4 acre plots at most, or even plots so small acre is irrelevant.  I grew up in a neighborhood with "big" yards, our plots were 2560 square feet (80 x 40), I just googled an acre is 43560 square feet, so the whole thing, including the house was 1/17 of an acre - I can't casually picture in my mind an acre in just lawn.

I can... we're looking at houses, and one we wanted (which, sadly, got snapped up) was 0.94 acres.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Ceallach on September 21, 2012, 12:58:04 AM
I assume Yvaine is an urban dweller where home owners might buy lots that are much smaller than an acre or even a half acre.  Where I grew up most people owned land in acres - not just farmers.  You might have 2 wooded acres and one acre of lawn.  It was not unheard of for people to have 10, 20 or 40 acres even if they weren't farmers.

I grew up on 50 acres (and no we weren't farmers!) so I have a fair idea of how much that is.   Despite that, I still have no idea how much 1 acre is.    That's probably more because I'm not a numbers person though!   I don't think I knew how many inch were in a foot properly until I was nearly an adult.  I use google or iphone apps to convert units of measure for me! 

But I concur with everybody else.  Fortnight really is a normal, everyday word here.  I can't imagine having to say "every two weeks" it would be much less convenient.   ;D    And of course, "bimonthly" has two meanings so is a little ambiguous. 
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Decimus on September 21, 2012, 10:48:57 AM
It's been pretty well covered but -- yes, as an American I'd find fortnight a very unusual word.  I'd never hear it spoken except on BBC-America or other British programs, and I wouldn't use it in writing, although it might appear in older texts.  I'm familiar with "fortnight" from British literature but although I thought I was pretty well-read until this thread I'd never seen "fortnightly" as a word.  I'd use biweekly instead.  If I was going away for two weeks I'd say "I'll be gone two weeks."  Which does seem shorter to me since "two weeks" is two syllables but "a fort/night" is three.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: baglady on September 22, 2012, 06:06:55 PM
Furlongs per fortnight: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FFF_system
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Iris on September 22, 2012, 06:47:25 PM
Furlongs per fortnight: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FFF_system

You know, I actually thought that was a bit cheeky, given that fortnight is still used widely in many parts of the world, as evidenced from this thread. It's no more silly a unit of time than a week, really.

Furlongs and Firkins you can have, though  :)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: kglory on September 23, 2012, 04:29:52 AM
I'm pretty sure that fortnight used to be more commonly used in the US, but it has fallen out of use in the past century or so. So to an American, probably the best comparison is the word "score" to mean "20." That was also in common use, particularly to describe years or age, a century ago. But except for the famous Gettysburg Address that begins "Fourscore and seven years ago," most Americans would never have any reason to know what it means.

I thought of the same example (as another fellow American). 

My guess is that most Americans know that Abe Lincoln said, "Four score and seven years ago..."

But my guess is that a very small percentage of those Americans know what it actually means:  "87 years ago."

It's one of those terms that's fallen out of common usage. So even if somebody remembers a quote with that terms, they may not know what it means or why.

ETA:  One thing I've always wondered (that I guess there is no way to tell, given the lack of video or tape recording back in the day), but did people really talk like characters in old-fashioned literature?  By which I mean 17th, 18th, early 19th century.  Or were those books written for a more highbrow crowd, so the authors tried to "write fancy"?  For example, 87 years ago is so much simpler to say than "four score and seven."  Although it was a political speech, and even today, people don't normally talk like politicians do.  But I'd be curious to learn how people actually did speak.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Barney girl on September 23, 2012, 08:59:01 AM
It's interesting that in French they still use this pattern; so - quatre vingt sept. - four twenty seven ie 87; or even longer - quatre vingt dix sept - four twenty ten seven - 97. It comes naturally though. You don't need to the sums to work out the number
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Ezeesee on October 05, 2012, 01:41:57 PM
ETA:  One thing I've always wondered (that I guess there is no way to tell, given the lack of video or tape recording back in the day), but did people really talk like characters in old-fashioned literature?  By which I mean 17th, 18th, early 19th century.  Or were those books written for a more highbrow crowd, so the authors tried to "write fancy"?  For example, 87 years ago is so much simpler to say than "four score and seven."  Although it was a political speech, and even today, people don't normally talk like politicians do.  But I'd be curious to learn how people actually did speak.

It's interesting that in French they still use this pattern; so - quatre vingt sept. - four twenty seven ie 87; or even longer - quatre vingt dix sept - four twenty ten seven - 97. It comes naturally though. You don't need to the sums to work out the number

It can be similar in Welsh - to pick a random number, '18' can be said as 'undegwyth', 'tri ar bymtheg', and 'deunaw'. Literally translated, these mean 'one ten eight', 'three on fifteen', and 'two nine'. I hear them all equally often, although the first is the one I'd consider the easiest.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Thipu1 on October 06, 2012, 08:52:33 AM
In the 19th century, particularly in America, oratory was considered a fine art.  Public speeches were intended to be dramatic and melodious.  'four score and seven' sounds much nicer than '87'.  Intone it with a sweeping gesture of one arm and you'll see what I mean. 

In ordinary speech, people probably would have said '87'  but the other style of speech was considered appropriate for a public address.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Rohanna on October 08, 2012, 02:11:19 AM
Ontario poster here-

Fortnight- maybe 1/4-1/2 of people might know what I meant, probably heavily biased towards older folks and those who read older British lit/watch British shows. I don't think I've heard a non-Brit use it in casual conversation.

Biannual, annual, bi-weekly, acre- yes.

Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Ceallach on October 09, 2012, 06:03:17 PM
Ontario poster here-

Fortnight- maybe 1/4-1/2 of people might know what I meant, probably heavily biased towards older folks and those who read older British lit/watch British shows. I don't think I've heard a non-Brit use it in casual conversation.

Biannual, annual, bi-weekly, acre- yes.

The problem with this is that they have two meanings which are very different:

-Biannual can mean twice per year (every year), or once every second year
-Bi-weekly can mean twice per week (every week), or once every second week

I'm quite curious how people in places where those terms are common avoid misunderstandings!    Is it just based on context?   e.g. it's obvious that you wouldn't get paid twice per week, so if payroll is biweekly you know it's fortnightly?  (every second week).    Whereas with other things it may be more obviously the other way around?    It's not that we don't use the terms here, people do occasionally, but they tends to be discouraged because they're ambiguous.   

Or do they have only one commonly accepted meaning elsewhere so that this isn't a problem?
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Outdoor Girl on October 09, 2012, 06:11:41 PM
If I say Bi(weekly, annually, whatever) I mean every two of those time periods.

I say twice weekly or twice annually if i mean 2 times in that time period.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Thipu1 on October 10, 2012, 08:25:32 AM
If I say Bi(weekly, annually, whatever) I mean every two of those time periods.

I say twice weekly or twice annually if i mean 2 times in that time period.

Around here, 'semi' is frequently used to mean twice in a given period.  'Bi' is used to indicate once every other week, month or year. 
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: lowspark on October 10, 2012, 08:33:48 AM
Biannual means twice a year.
Biennial means every two years.

But yeah, biweekly can mean either twice a week or every two weeks.
I guess you just have to take the context into account.

Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: #borecore on October 10, 2012, 10:06:26 AM
There's a new U.S. commercial out where a guy in some blue collar job mentions something that you only have to do once a fortnight. Wish I could remember context, but I just remember thinking of this thread.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: cabbageweevil on October 14, 2012, 06:04:32 PM
It can be similar in Welsh - to pick a random number, '18' can be said as 'undegwyth', 'tri ar bymtheg', and 'deunaw'. Literally translated, these mean 'one ten eight', 'three on fifteen', and 'two nine'. I hear them all equally often, although the first is the one I'd consider the easiest.

To paraphrase a favourite author of mine, writing about a "teaser" in the grammar of another language unfamiliar to most of the world's English-speakers: "Discovering that, has suddenly made me very determined never to try to learn Welsh".

(Just kidding  :) -- I love Wales and things Welsh, and have occasionally toyed with the idea of learning the language.)
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: kareng57 on October 15, 2012, 09:40:12 PM
If I say Bi(weekly, annually, whatever) I mean every two of those time periods.

I say twice weekly or twice annually if i mean 2 times in that time period.

Around here, 'semi' is frequently used to mean twice in a given period.  'Bi' is used to indicate once every other week, month or year.


That's how I've always understood, it, too.  I've never heard of anyone confusing the terms "semi" and "bi".
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: katycoo on October 15, 2012, 11:39:04 PM
If I say Bi(weekly, annually, whatever) I mean every two of those time periods.

I say twice weekly or twice annually if i mean 2 times in that time period.

Around here, 'semi' is frequently used to mean twice in a given period.  'Bi' is used to indicate once every other week, month or year.

That's how I've always understood, it, too.  I've never heard of anyone confusing the terms "semi" and "bi".

Bi means 2.  So its not apparent whether you mean "2 times in every" or "once in every 2".  Even a lot of the dictionaries give both options for biannual.

While semi means half, i've never heard it used i any context with respect to distance or time.  So I wouldn't process your intent quickly.  In fact it would even occur to me as a suitable word to use.  I'd probably say half-weekly.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: kareng57 on October 15, 2012, 11:51:27 PM
If I say Bi(weekly, annually, whatever) I mean every two of those time periods.

I say twice weekly or twice annually if i mean 2 times in that time period.

Around here, 'semi' is frequently used to mean twice in a given period.  'Bi' is used to indicate once every other week, month or year.

That's how I've always understood, it, too.  I've never heard of anyone confusing the terms "semi" and "bi".

Bi means 2.  So its not apparent whether you mean "2 times in every" or "once in every 2".  Even a lot of the dictionaries give both options for biannual.

While semi means half, i've never heard it used i any context with respect to distance or time.  So I wouldn't process your intent quickly.  In fact it would even occur to me as a suitable word to use.  I'd probably say half-weekly.


That could be, but my understanding is that we were referring to regional usage.  So here, a semi-annual sale means twice a year, and bi-annual would mean once every other year (which would be kind of weird for a store sale, but anyway).
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: violinp on October 15, 2012, 11:52:17 PM
If I say Bi(weekly, annually, whatever) I mean every two of those time periods.

I say twice weekly or twice annually if i mean 2 times in that time period.

Around here, 'semi' is frequently used to mean twice in a given period.  'Bi' is used to indicate once every other week, month or year.

That's how I've always understood, it, too.  I've never heard of anyone confusing the terms "semi" and "bi".

Bi means 2.  So its not apparent whether you mean "2 times in every" or "once in every 2".  Even a lot of the dictionaries give both options for biannual.

While semi means half, i've never heard it used i any context with respect to distance or time.  So I wouldn't process your intent quickly.  In fact it would even occur to me as a suitable word to use.  I'd probably say half-weekly.

Not even when stores say "We're having a semi - annual sale"?
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: katycoo on October 16, 2012, 08:00:13 PM
Bi means 2.  So its not apparent whether you mean "2 times in every" or "once in every 2".  Even a lot of the dictionaries give both options for biannual.

While semi means half, i've never heard it used in any context with respect to distance or time.  So I wouldn't process your intent quickly.  In fact it would even occur to me as a suitable word to use.  I'd probably say half-weekly.

Not even when stores say "We're having a semi - annual sale"?

Stores don't say that here.  They have half-yearly sales.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Sara Crewe on October 21, 2012, 04:33:37 AM
In regard to fortnight, it is so common that if I am writing down that someone receives money every two weeks, I can write p/f and everyone knows what I mean (these are offical documents submitted to a government department).

It is used by everyone and there is no 'class' implication at all.  As a PP says, it's just used like the word 'duck'.

I mention this because someone else mentioned British slang from the Harry Potter books and a lot of that is class/age orientated.  Non-British fanfiction writers who assume that because Ron Weasley calls everyone 'mate', they can have Albus Dumbledore (for example) do it make me wince.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: jeni on October 24, 2012, 07:02:19 AM
I'm an Aussie and never would have thought that fortnight was an unusual word in some parts of the world.  Such a common word here, we get paid fortnightly, pay our rent or mortgage fortnightly. My calculations at work revolve around 26 fortnights (or pays) per year etc. 

Loving Ehell, I've learnt a lot from this site and this folder is particularly great for finding out all sorts of interesting things!

When it comes to biannual or biennial I always have to look them up to ensure I'm using the right one - now which is it, twice a year, or every two years?!

Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Gwywnnydd on November 06, 2012, 03:40:48 PM
The only time I use the word is when I'm referring to speed in terms of "furlongs per fortnight."

DOD Nominal!!
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Outdoor Girl on November 10, 2012, 10:44:40 PM
I've read a couple of historical fiction books lately and they talk about a sennight.  Is that a week?
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: RingTailedLemur on November 11, 2012, 04:06:00 AM
I've read a couple of historical fiction books lately and they talk about a sennight.  Is that a week?

Yup - it's a contraction of "seven nights".  I've not heard it used outside of Shakespeare, though.

Also, as a Brit, I use "fortnight" all the time without ever thinking about it.  It's as common to use as "a week", but I remember my grandparents telling me when I was a little girl that they had confused some Americans when they were visiting the States by using it.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Gwywnnydd on November 11, 2012, 09:40:29 AM
I've read a couple of historical fiction books lately and they talk about a sennight.  Is that a week?

Yup - it's a contraction of "seven nights".  I've not heard it used outside of Shakespeare, though.


It was used in Pride and Prejudice (when Mr. Collins was inviting himself to stay with the Bennets). I would assume that means that it was in reasonably common usage then (mid-1790s).
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: RingTailedLemur on November 11, 2012, 09:44:56 AM
I've read a couple of historical fiction books lately and they talk about a sennight.  Is that a week?

Yup - it's a contraction of "seven nights".  I've not heard it used outside of Shakespeare, though.


It was used in Pride and Prejudice (when Mr. Collins was inviting himself to stay with the Bennets). I would assume that means that it was in reasonably common usage then (mid-1790s).

Ah I had forgotten that one.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Slartibartfast on November 11, 2012, 12:07:43 PM
Writing historical fiction is tricky - you want to use enough "historical" words (i.e. words that were common in that time period but not today) to make the setting feel real, but not so many that modern readers can't understand.  You also have to avoid words we use today but not for the same things, and words a modern reader wouldn't understand because we don't have those items/concepts anymore.  Then you also have to avoid words that WERE authentic to the time period but don't "sound right" to modern readers.  Another pitfall is idioms and phrasal verbs based on modern technology.

some examples:

a modern person would think of a spark as being something electrical; someone from pre-electricity days would think of it as from a fire.

"Old hat" - nowadays it means something that's worn-out or mundane or hackneyed, but in bygone days it was a crude term for a loose woman's private parts (as in, both were "often felt").

"stomach" isn't a dirty word now, but in Regency times a well-born woman would NEVER use such crude language.


So in relation to literature, "sennight" may be something most modern readers would recognize as being from a bygone era, and that in turn may compel authors to use it instead of "week" even if "week" was equally acceptable in the time period they're writing about.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: oz diva on November 11, 2012, 11:06:59 PM
And what is a weekend? /Downton geek
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Ceallach on November 14, 2012, 02:07:29 AM
And what is a weekend? /Downton geek

Lol yes that cracked me up too on Downton - we sometimes forget that "weekend" is a modern concept.    In the olden times from what I understand the days were somewhat irrelevant to the wealthy, and to the poor most days were working days (or perhaps they'd have one day off - Sunday maybe), the "working week" and "weekend" as we know it are relatively modern concepts.
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: Slartibartfast on November 14, 2012, 03:09:28 AM
And what is a weekend? /Downton geek

Lol yes that cracked me up too on Downton - we sometimes forget that "weekend" is a modern concept.    In the olden times from what I understand the days were somewhat irrelevant to the wealthy, and to the poor most days were working days (or perhaps they'd have one day off - Sunday maybe), the "working week" and "weekend" as we know it are relatively modern concepts.

AFAIK Sundays still would have been church days - which would often have been a much longer affair than modern services usually are  :) 
Title: Re: S/o of a couple of things - Fortnight: Unusual or not
Post by: cabbageweevil on November 14, 2012, 04:58:41 AM
And what is a weekend? /Downton geek

Lol yes that cracked me up too on Downton - we sometimes forget that "weekend" is a modern concept.    In the olden times from what I understand the days were somewhat irrelevant to the wealthy, and to the poor most days were working days (or perhaps they'd have one day off - Sunday maybe), the "working week" and "weekend" as we know it are relatively modern concepts.

AFAIK Sundays still would have been church days - which would often have been a much longer affair than modern services usually are  :)

One gathers that "the lower orders" made the best of the situation as described, however bleak. As in the eighteenth-century ballad "Sally In Our Alley", by Henry Carey -- the "speaker", a downtrodden apprentice in whose life the only bright spot is his girlfriend and, he hopes, future wife:

"Of all the days that's in the week,
 I dearly love but one day --
 And that's the day that comes betwixt
 A Saturday and Monday:
 For then I'm drest in all my best
 To walk abroad with Sally;
 She is the darling of my heart
 And she lives in our alley.

 My master carries me to church
 And often I am blam-ed
 Because I leave him in the lurch
 As soon as text is nam-ed;
 I leave the church in sermon-time
 And slink away to Sally..."