28 February 2006

In/comprehensible

This January 1st, in order to keep Coordinated Universal Time in synch with Mean Solar Time, the international atomic clocks were set forward a second, the so-called "leap second". This leap second is added every 18 months or so, but for reasons having to do with parabolas, the last one was 7 years ago, so this year's got a lot more attention than usual.

What did you do with your extra second?

Though there are people who think we could do away with leap seconds, for the most part, the worldwide change is accepted on its face, people incorporate the extra second into their lives quite easily, and go on about their business.

I've often thought that there are more things that should be done by this kind of universal consent. Not every year, which would be too often to absorb, but maybe once every four years or so, like the Olympics, we could get together on something that needs to be changed, and simply change it, as of January 1st.

I was reminded of this plan this morning as I watched a woman throw her lit cigarette down a subway grate outside of Penn Station. Nevermind that it's littering. At least she could have stomped it out first. What if there was something flammable at the bottom of the shaft under the grate? Or is it inflammable?

Flammable. Inflammable. You know they mean the same thing, right? Capable of being set on fire. Arguable and inarguable mean opposite things, as do decorous and indecorous. Decent/indecent. Digestible/indigestible. I could go on.

Inflammable just makes no sense. Plus, it would be helpful to have a word that meant incapable of being set on fire. (Capable/incapable, there's another pair.) This first universal decree would only effect the English-speaking world, so I think it would be a good test case, New Year's Day, 2007. Who's with me?

(Note to snarky anonymous posters: no need for an etymology lesson about the different meaning of the prefix in-, thanks.)

4 Comments:

Blogger Stuntmother said...

I'm all about it. Never doubt that one small prefix can change the world.

9:35 PM  
Blogger tammara said...

I'm "in"!

10:36 AM  
Blogger Pedestrian Rage said...

OK, I'll join the parade.

9:30 AM  
Blogger PG said...

I expect I spent my extra second asleep...never waste time when there's good dozing to be had!

10:20 AM  

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