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A.Word.A.Day--nychthemeron

Pronunciation RealAudio

This week's theme: There is a word for it.

nychthemeron (nik-THEM-er-on) noun

A full period of a day and night: 24 hours.

[From Greek, a combination of nykt- (night) and hemera (day).]

Ever wondered why day and night were divided into 12 hours? The number 12 is not as random as it sounds. There are 12 moons in a year. The number 12 is easy to divide into halves, thirds, and quarters. Also, some cultures counted in base 12: three joints on each finger (thumb as the counter).

Aren't we glad a nychthemeron isn't divided in metric? Who wants to sleep 30 hours every night?

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

PS: Thanks for your overwhelming response to the new book and for making it #1 in reference category on Amazon.com.

"Newborns alternate between sleep and wake many times during a nychthemeron." William H Moorcroft and Paula Belcher; Understanding Sleep and Dreaming; Springer; 2003.

X-Bonus

I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much. It means to me now--only that place where the books are kept. -John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968)

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