20 Jul 2005
These are all units of measurement.
Fathom is a sailor’s term for describing the depth of water. A fathom is six feet deep or 1.8 meters. Not living near an ocean I never hear anyone use the term, but I do hear a variation fathomless. Fathomless means too deep to be measures or understood. For example the fathomless world of Search Engine Optimization
Fathom comes from the old English fathme. Fathme means “outstretched arms.” Presumably outstretched arms are about six feet wide- one fathom.
Furlong comes from the Old English furh meaning furrow and lang meaning long. A furlong is a distance of 220 yards, 660 feet or about 201 meters. Eight furlongs equals a mile and 5 equals about a kilometer. As the etymology suggests it comes from the length of a furrow, a long shallow trench plowed for farming. Originally furlong referred to the length of one furrow in one acre.
Prior to researching furlong I had only heard the term in the context of the sport of kings- horse racing. In horse racing are used to describe distances less then a mile. Remember a furlong is an 1/8 of a mile.
A fortnight is a period of two weeks or 14 days. I thought it came from a mutation of a fort, as in a military fort. But as it turns out fortnight is also from Old English. It comes from feowertyne niht meaning 14 nights. When your boss asks you to get a project done by next week tell them it will take more like fortnight.
A sennight is one week, 7days.
Today’s Podcast needs a new name. Please help me by sending me you name change suggestions.
Wheat rows photo courtesy of Will Simpson at PalousePhotography.org