I'm working on defining technical terms to explain three ways to calculate the length of time between two points in time despite the oddities of Daylight Saving Time (DST):

  1. Always use real-world elapsed time (like a stopwatch). This will be called "absolute".
  2. Always use clock time, even if the clock time did weird things during the period like skipped an hour (because Daylight Saving Time started) or repeated an hour (because Daylight Saving Time stopped). This will be called "local".
  3. Use a mix of the two strategies that matches how normal, non-technical people would think about it. For example, from 5:00PM on the day before Daylight Saving Time ends or starts to 5:00PM the next day should be "one day", not "one day and one hour" or "23 hours." But a time period that starts an hour before DST starts and ends an hour after DST starts should be "2 hours" even though the clock is 3 hours ahead.

What should I name #3?

The connotation I'm looking for is something that's intuitive and works well, despite not being technically consistent. A word that means "rules that are commonly accepted and good enough for most purposes" is what I'm looking for. Alternatively, I'd be happy with a word that means "Do something different on one side than is done on the other, for good reasons even if those reasons seem a little arbitrary."

Ideally the word would be:

  • relatively short (under 10 letters)
  • a common-enough word that most college-educated, non-native English speakers will know it
  • easy to pronounce for non-native english speakers
  • easy to spell
  • single word is very strongly preferred
  • preferably an adjective, but the right noun could be OK
  • non-judgemental, so if someone chooses another of the 3 terms, #3's antonym won't make the user feel like we're criticizing their choice

The closest word that I've found so far is "common" in the sense of "common law". But I think that meaning of "common" is too obscure so I'm hoping to find a better term.

Here's some other words I've considered and reasons why I rejected them:

  • normal - too generic
  • everyday - too generic
  • expected - some users may not actually expect this behavior, so I don't think this works
  • standard - in my industry (software) this has the connotation of "laws" or "regulations" which is not what I'm trying to convey
  • customary - close, but feels a little to vague to me
  • colloquial - this is the closest I've found, but the word is probably too obscure and hard to spell for our global audience
  • quirky - emphasizes weirdness, which is the opposite of the connotation I'm looking for.
  • pragmatic - very close to what I'm looking for, but pragmatic implies "making the best of things" while this term should be closer to "how people usually talk"
  • best fit / best effort - not bad, but 2 words is not ideal
  • idiomatic - close, but too obscure
  • divergent - too much emphasizing difference vs. sensibility
  • sensible - too opinionated; don't want to imply that users who chose another option are not sensible
  • parallel - not exactly right because parallel implies doing things separately, but I'm more looking for a collaborative connotation, e.g. date and time working differently but in harmony.
  • split - same problems as parallel
  • blend - too much emphasis on the mixture, not enough on "what just seems right"
  • compromise - implies too much mixed, muddled
  • evolved - emphasizes too much about the process of how we got there, instead of "what we have now is fine"

3 Answers 3

  • For elapsed time, you've got absolute. (Although I think elapsed itself might actually be better.)

  • For clock time, you've got local. (Although I think adjusted might actually be better.)

For what people would consider to be a "a day" (5:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.), despite a time change either way that results in that not being 24 hours, I would use the word effective:

1 a : producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect
      // an effective policy
2 : being in effect : OPERATIVE
     // the tax becomes effective next year

In some ways, this works better with the adverb effectively (although I understand you might need the adjective for classification):

1 : in an effective manner
    // dealt with the problem effectively
2 : in effect : VIRTUALLY
   // by withholding further funds they effectively killed the project

In short:

At 5:00 p.m. tomorrow, a day will have effectively passed.

You can look up synonyms for effective and effectively. When I think of these words in this sense, I mostly think of practical and acceptably. Or essentially, which isn't actually listed at Merriam-Webster, even though that's a personal association of mine.

  • I also prefer elapsed to absolute. +1 Not sure about adjusted only because it seems to require the oddity of a Daylight Savings or other timezone shift. In practice, using local time often will not involve such a shift. But I can understand how any attempt to explain it must include that critical component.
    – lumbrjak
    May 20, 2020 at 8:32
  • @lumbrjak I am picturing somebody having to adjust their watch or clock in order to match what everybody else is now using. If you haven't made the change yourself, then you're still using the wrong time. After you've made the change, you'll be using an adjusted time. (Granted, local says the same thing. But I'm thinking of adjectives relative to you rather than to everybody else.) May 20, 2020 at 13:39

You are looking for a word which means: "rules that are commonly accepted and good enough for most purposes." These are conventional practices.

From Merriam-Webster unabridged:

  1. according with, sanctioned by, conforming to, or based on convention, custom, or traditional usages or attitudes
  2. commonly encountered, observed, or performed : commonplace, ordinary, usual

It is customary and common practice to count time in hour increments. However, when this count is punctuated by a sunset and sunrise, or by an extended period of sleep, it is our convention to begin referring to segments along this span in terms of today, yesterday, or "in the course of the past day" to refer to the whole. We could just as well be more precise by enumerating the actual hours elapsed, but that is not our convention.


Use a mix of the two strategies that matches how normal, non-technical people would think about it.

Given you mean "What people usually do", I think "empirical" would suit your purpose:


4. Guided by or derived from previous experience or unsystematic observation, without a basis in formal learning or an understanding of underlying principles;

1843 Standard 26 Oct. 2/6 We are now relying entirely for future discoveries on..the empirical method of advancing agricultural science, and are neglecting the scientific.

1921 S. Klyce Universe 132/2 The empirical farmer who plants by the moon's phases is not wholly superstitious, although it is likely that his rules of thumb are now excessively inaccurate.

2008 B. Donegan War in Eng. 1642–9 (2010) v. 84 The good artilleryman..was an empirical practitioner of a variable art, rather than the operator of a precisely accurate machine.

2008 P. Tregoning, Dynamic Planet: In the empirical approach the correlation functions and variances are computed using the observed data, instead.

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