Monday, 6 November 2017

time’s arrow

Linguists and historians suppose that the notion of clockwise and anticlockwise motion on the sun dial and clock face is related to the left to right apparent motion of the Sun as it crosses the arc of the sky for an occident observer—which, if true, raises some interesting questions about its antecedents.
Via Naked Capitalism we are treated to an exploration of the idea of circum- ambulation—at least in an Anglo-Saxon context with heavy resonance, surely, elsewhere. Though humans have always had the march of the heavens to trace, until the prevalence of time keeping and assigning direction to time’s arrow (also for navigation and shop-work with tools and bolts) it was probably enough in most situations to indicate direction rather than tendency. The terms sunwise (Uhrzeigersinnes), the Gaelic deasil (Deisel) and the Latin dexter, however, did exist before time pieces were common—with the Middle English widdershins—from the German widersinnig for going against, indicating a counter-clockwise motion (geden den Uhrzeigersinn). From lexical evidence, sunwise and widdershins to often be invoked when describing human processions around sacred sites. More about these propitious marches and examples of backwards running clocks can be found at the links above.