I was microwaving some frozen veggies. They had to cook for 9 minutes, "...and stir half-way through cooking." Okay, so I'll set the microwave for 4 and a half minutes, then stir. I punched in 430.
How very odd. Why on earth is 4 and a half minutes, 4 minutes and thirty seconds? Thirty? Why is that half of anything? Why am I not punching in 4.5 or something? Americans get laughed at by everyone else in the world for using the British Imperial System of weights and measures, which even the British don't use any more, but here we all are, the US, the Brits, and the entire rest of the world, using a ridiculous base 60 system for time. English measures are at least slightly intuitive: half an inch is, well, 1/2 inch, and half of that is 1/4. It's at least as easy to conceptualize those as it is to conceptualize 0.5 and 0.25. But base 60? The hell? Quick: in which quadrant is 270 degrees? Uh...
And it's all on account of those damned Babylonians.
You've probably received a 'Fwd. Fwd. Fwd. Fwd. Fwd.' email at some time with the story of how modern road/car/railroad widths are all based on ancient Roman military specifications? It's an urban legend, mostly. But the story of how we got time measurements from the Babylonians is true. For that matter, the names of major stars are largely Arabic, because the Arabs were the great astronomers of the Middle Ages, which was when Western astronomy had its roots.
It's amazing how stuck we can get on a particular system of nomenclature or measuring, once it's established. Makes me wonder whether people a thousand years from now will still be using QWERTY keyboards.
二月 == nigatsu == February
二人 == futari == two people
|A pictogram of two extended fingers. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Two fingers.'|