Sunday, August 21, 2011

Right in a Fortnight

Esther from Honor asked about the phrase, “right in a fortnight.” The meaning is rather transparent: be patient for a couple of weeks and things will turn out OK.

First, let’s deal with the word fortnight. It is a contracted form of the Old English féowertýne niht, fourteen nights. The first instance cited in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from the year 1,000. There is an allied word, sennight, that came from two Old English words: seofon, seven, and nihta, the plural of niht, night.

The phrase “right in a fortnight” is listed in a dictionary of Australian slang. It supposedly started among Aussie soldiers during WWII.

Lowell from Interlochen speculated that “right in a fortnight” came from the 16th century Gregorian Calendar change. The change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was necessary because after centuries of use, the Julian calendar had fallen ten days behind real time. By decree, October 4, 1582, was followed by October 15, 1582. Since fortnight first appeared in 1,000, and since the complete phrase first showed up in the 1940s, any direct connection to the calendar change is dubious.

SIDEBAR: Gregorian Calendar History

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