For some inexplicable reason, time is often treated differently to other units of measure when it comes to common word usage. Or, more to the point, misusage.
Listen to a news bulletin, read a paper or simply take part in an everyday conversation and you will soon encounter the redundant use of the word ‘time’. Here are some examples:
The grand-final will start in 30 minutes’ time
Parliament will resume in one hour’s time
We are going on holidays in three days’ time
The defendant will appear in court again in six weeks’ time
Even though minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are all units of time, it’s become commonplace to connect these units to the word ‘time’—as if there is some need to clarify that they are indeed measuring time. But what else could they be measuring?
Think of other units of measure, for example, temperature. Imagine a weather forecaster saying: “In Sydney tomorrow it will reach a high of 25 degrees’ temperature.”
Or consider distance. Imagine a motor racing commentator saying: “There’s one lap to go in this year’s Bathurst 1000, just 6.2 kilometres’ distance to the finish line.”
Have you ever seen a real estate advertisement for a house on “a quarter-acre area block”? Ever heard anyone say they weigh 90 kilograms’ mass? When was the last time you bought a two-litre volume bottle of milk?
We recognise units of measure for what they are—so there is no need to qualify what they are measuring. But somehow, when it comes to time, usage is evolving in a way that assumes people can’t recognise minutes, days, weeks, months or years as being measures of time. I’m not sure why.