The other day someone asked me about my morning walks around Schiller Park and I explained that, being a creature of habit, I inevitably walk up Third Street and, when I reach the park, I head counterclockwise for my laps around the park. My friend understood exactly what I meant and no doubt visualized the hands of a clock in the process.
It made me wonder whether, if I was using the same expression with a teenager, they would be mystified by the expression, or would understand that “counterclockwise” means to turn right as you begin your laps from the twelve o’clock position. Do they even have clocks with hour and minute hands in schools these days, and how many homes have old-style clocks around–rather than digital contraptions on their microwaves, ovens, refrigerators, and TVs? We’ve got the nifty art deco-style clock shown above on the end table next to our bed, but it was a consciously retro purchase to go with our retro house. Otherwise, our timekeeping would all be of the digital variety.
And “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” aren’t the only concepts or phrases that are at risk in the digital era. Will people still say that something that went well came off like clockwork? Will people still say that they worked (or rocked) around the clock? And will taunting people boast that they will clean your clock?
I’m afraid that the clock is ticking on clock-related phrases, and it’s a shame.