Luke Taylor

Grammar Grater®

with Luke Taylor

A Timely Matter

Daylight saving time has certainly received its share of attention this year, given the date change in North America and the technical requirements for people's computers. It may seem strange to talk about it in a grammar podcast, but there are actually some linguistic components to daylight saving time.

First of all, the name alone can cause some problems. It can be easy to erroneously say and write "daylight savings time" or even "daylight saving's time." It's actually daylight saving time: there's no apostrophe, and it's just saving, not "savings." Grammatically speaking, saving is used here as an adjective that modifies time.

There are also variants in other countries to consider. For example, in the UK, British Summer Time — or BST — is in effect from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. BST adds one hour to Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. Another name for GMT you may come across is Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. The switch to summer time and back again applies on the same dates for all of the European Union, of which the UK is a member state.

In North America, daylight saving time is observed from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November. And it's worth noting that daylight saving time is not observed in Saskatchewan, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and by most of Arizona.

Now that we've firmly established daylight saving time, here is where the most important linguistic aspect comes into play.

In a previous job, I sat near a woman who frequently updated her voicemail greeting with an expressive, beautifully articulated message that declared her normal working hours as "nine a.m. to five p.m., Central Standard Time." It sounded authoritative and impressive. Unfortunately, for a good chunk of the year, it was inaccurate.

Once daylight saving time kicks in, the word standard needs to be replaced by daylight, thus Central Standard Time becomes Central Daylight Time, Pacific Standard Time becomes Pacific Daylight Time, etc. Abbreviations change, too: EST becomes EDT. And when daylight saving time ends in the autumn, standard comes back and replaces daylight. As such, documentation, communications and yes, voicemail greetings, need to change to reflect this.

All those changes can be expensive and time consuming. Fortunately, one can avoid this confusion altogether by simply leaving out the standard and daylight designators: Eastern Time or ET, Pacific Time or PT. Or you could move to a place where daylight saving time is not observed.

Sources: California Energy Commission, National Research Council Canada, Webexhibits, GreenwichMeanTime.com, and from The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin.

Songs from this Episode: "Time is the Master" by John Holt; "Duppy Conqueror" by Bob Marley; "Everybody Daylight" by Brightblack Morning Light; "Nice Time" by Phyllis Dillon.

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