Thu, 04 Apr 2002

Dear Mister Wonderful,

Let us presume for a moment that humanity had developed digital watches before analogue watches; indeed, let up presume that digital was all that we had even known, that the concept of a watch with hands was unheard of. How, then, would we express the directional concepts of "clockwise" and "counter-clockwise?"

In a slightly related additional question, I've been wondering why a couple dancing swing is supposed to rotate clockwise, while a couple dancing salsa is supposed to rotate counter-clockwise. Does this have anything to do with water swirling down the drain in different directions in different hemispheres?

Yours Sincerely,

Carmen Miranda


Dear Fruit Bat,

That's quite a presumption, but I'll run with it. First off, we'd have to get rid of that pesky sun. And the Swiss, obviously. They're the ones who decided watch hands should proceed in the same manner as sun dials when they should have concentrated on developing a cheaper chocolate.

So, yes, if mankind had evolved in concrete and steel bunkers with only radioactive luminescence, computer science and pacifist chocolate to give us guidance - as I suggested, but would they listen, nooooo - we'd have to say "That way around the circle" or "This way around the circle" while gesturing with our Indiglo (tm) wrists.

Actually, the old world term for counter-clockwise is "widdershins," which sounds like something Jackie Kennedy did with Aristotle Onassis, but isn't. They always corkscrewed to the right. Which I suppose is "anti-widdershins," who should have been a Faulkner character.

Your follow-up query is easily solved by misrepresenting ethnic folklore: Swing Dancing is good and wholesome fun for white folk, while Salsa is hot-blooded lust jiggling straight from the sexy people. As in magick, the left-hand path is more interesting.