Let’s Bring Back the Fortnight!

A couple of months ago, I jotted down a note to myself to someday write a blog post about the term fortnight and how, perhaps sadly, it has fallen out of use. Like many reminders, I had forgotten this note until yesterday, when I not infrequently (as Trollope would have likely put it) came across the term while reading Anthony Trollope: An Autobiography. The most memorable episode was when he was involved in establishing a periodical in London called “The Fortnightly.”. Apparently it didn’t garner the success he had hoped and the venture was sold to another, who determined part of the problem was the frequency of its issues, and it took on a monthly publication schedule, carrying on month after month, with that misnomer.

So, why has the term “fortnight” fallen out of usage? It seems so charming and useful, but these days about the only time we are introduced to it is when we read the classics. I just paused here to do a little online research and it seems the term IS still used often in England, but just isn’t common in the English-speaking United States. So why is that? Do we not feel the need for a measure for a length of time that is greater than a week and less than a month? At first I wondered if the term fell out of use as life spans increased and fourteen days had once represented a greater percent of one’s (expected) life than it does now, but if it’s still used, that explanation falls hollow.

I personally like the term. It would seem a natural division whose use would still have value. For example, I get “paid fortnightly” at the company I work for. If no other reason exists, this certainly is enough to make it important to me. A fortnight fits more conveniently with a lunar cycle (roughly 29 days) than months (up to 31 days). Where it might seem even more useful is that it’s a good, round time in which things could get done. “I could have that for you in a couple weeks,” or “look into it for a couple weeks and get back to me.” Once upon a time, my eccentric side flirted with the idea of using the lunar cycles as beginning and ending points for projects and goals, etc. Perhaps I will start using the fortnight. Here’s an even better idea: use the lunar cycle and plan stuff for the first two fortnights and make the leftover day a (lunar) monthly personal holiday. Ooh, I like that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we must “bring back” (or maybe adopt in the first place) the fortnight as a common term in America. Who’s with me? I’m starting tomorrow at the office. They think I’m weird anyway. 🙂 Wait ’til I start saying stuff like, “this came up a fortnight ago” in emails. Wait ’til I call human resources and say, “Yeah, I have a question about my last fortnight’s paycheck.” This is going to be fun. I’ll report back later…

Sent from my iPad


  1. Dee said,

    April 17, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Language is like a river – sounds, wet on the tongue – seems it mostly flows by and through us with its dilutions and its sediments – I like the idea of throwing in some old chunk of a word to see if anyone can enjoy the mix! I say, “Yes, try it!”


    • Jay said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks Dee! I already had one of my friends on Facebook join the “movement,” posting that his vacation to Cancun was “less than a fortnight away”… I love it!


  2. Jillian ♣ said,

    April 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I’m with you!! I also have decided to bring back the terms ‘erstwhile’ and ‘to wit.’ 😉


    • Jay said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      “Splendid!” I love it. Thanks for “participating!” 🙂



  3. Melody said,

    April 19, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I love the fact that language is fluid and am constantly trying to conscious about the words I choose to use or how I pronounce them. Which means that people already think I’m weird too. 🙂 I agree that “fortnight” should be common here, rather than quaint. I’ll work on incorporating it!


    • Jay said,

      April 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Maybe I will create a Facebook, “click here if you like fortnight ” page or something… 🙂


  4. April 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I’m going to adopt this and use it at work to see how people react. Maybe I’ll throw it into performance reviews and things of that ‘ilk’ – another one of my favourite words.

    I’d like to hear some of your ‘fortnight’ stories, as people react to you.


    • Jay said,

      April 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      Yes! “Ilk” is good too. My only response today when I used it was something like, “what is that, like two weeks?” I have my work cut out for me…


  5. anatheimp said,

    April 20, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Yes, it is still used here.


  6. Ann Marie said,

    April 21, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Jay! Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch must be a follower of your blog. In a story yesterday he said “Schumaker, who began various treatments, including a round of acupuncture, is hopeful that he won’t be on the DL any longer than the required fortnight and a day.” It is catching on!


    • Jay said,

      April 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Well, that wasn’t the literary sector where I thought my support for bringing back the fortnight would come from, but I’ll take it!


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