Two of Your Earth Minutes
"[...] the word 'human' only functions as that sort of adjective in bad science fiction."
In Speculative Fiction
, Aliens Speaking English
or aliens speaking through Translator Microbes
will sometimes be heard to use terrestrial measurements, but will for some reason feel the need to emphasise that they are your
units of Earth measurements, and not theirs. This implies that the extraterrestrials have their own units of measurement, that by improbable coincidence share a name with the ones humans use, but are otherwise different. Of course, this is rather like someone from a country which uses imperial measurements visiting one that uses metric ones and using phrases like "20 of your kilometers" or "6 of your kilograms". It also spares the audience from clunky exposition where the alien explains that a floob
is equal to 2.837 meters.
When two civilizations with different home-worlds, and thus different years, hours, and so on interact, referring to "your" time units or "(planet name) time units" is entirely correct, it's the redundancy of using both "your" and the name of the planet which makes this an awkward phrasing.
Happens to some degree in real life
, in situations such a Brit talking to an American about "two of your gallons" - but this is exactly because Britain and the US use the same word to mean different volumes
. (1 Imperial gallon == 1.2 American gallons.) Likewise, just as "minute" comes from the Latin for a small division, the aliens may have a time unit named after their word for a small division. But if not, there is little point specifying that it is an 'Earth Minute'... Unless it's mocking or derogatory, like most real-life uses of the trope in metric vs. imperial situations. "Your years" makes more sense as the duration of a planet's orbit around its sun would be different for each world.
See also Microts
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Anime and Manga
- In Nextwave, a representative of the Beyond Corporation summons Dread Rorkannu, Lord of the
Dark Dim Dimension, to ask to rent out his minions, and offers him a hundred dollar bill as payment. Rorkannu holds the money triumphantly, saying "Yes! I have a hundred of the Earth dollars!" Presumably, this refers to the most dominant by far among the many Earth currencies called dollars.
- A comic set in the Babylon 5 universe had a Minbari use the phrase "30 of your minutes" when addressing Jeffrey Sinclair.
- Inverted in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, as Nebular says that Earth's rotation around the Sun takes one year, or seven of their loomres.
- The Ed Wood B-Movie Plan 9 from Outer Space has an alien refer to "a can of your gasoline." Apparently, gasoline exists nowhere else, or he's digging at the quality of Earth gasoline. Or, maybe he's just poorly written.
- That same alien also refers to technology grasped "aeons of your years ago".
- The humans even get in on it, asking the aliens why they want to contact "our Earth governments".
- Spoofed in Amazon Women on the Moon. The Queen of the eponymous moon-dwellers boasts that her civilization has existed for millions of "Gamma-Spans", and hastily exposits that a Gamma-Span is "roughly equivalent to one of your Earth years." Though the Moon is the one place in the universe which is guaranteed to have the same average duration of "years" as Earth, Gamma-Spans could refer to sidereal years, which are longer than tropical years due to precession.
- Jor-El does this in the first Superman movie, in his Video Will:
By now you will have reached your eighteenth year, as it is measured on Earth. By that reckoning, I will have been dead many thousands of your years.
- Averted for comedy in Men In Black, where an eponymous organization deals an ultimatum with a time limit of one "Galactic Standard Week", which is explained to be one hour Earth time. Immidiately played straight afterwards, with the Arquellian message displaying a timer labeled "Earth Time Remaining", counting down the hour.
- The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra overlaps with Suspiciously Specific Denial:
Kro-Bar: Aliens? Us? Is this one of your Earth jokes?
Fleming: See? See?
Lattis: You should not have said "Earth jokes." Don't you see how that gave us away?
- The sequel, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, spoofs this trope in a more conventional way:
Chinfa, Queen of the Cantaloupe People: For many many days of your days, we have existed here in seclusion, away from your so-called non-cantaloupe, civilized ways.
- An American adaptation of the James Bond novel Casino Royale for the show Climax! swaps the nationalities of James Bond and Felix Leiter, with "Jimmy" Bond being American, and Felix Leiter British. This leads to the bizarre instance of Bond, the quintessential British secret agent converting francs to GBP for Leiter, and telling him how much the amount would be in "your British pounds."
- This Island Earth has Exeter refer to Mozart as "your composer" as he and his guests is listening to one of his songs. Cal doesn't realize something is wrong at all when he corrects him by saying "'Our' composer? He belongs to the world." When mentioned in Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie, Tom Servo retorts "I'm not an alien!"
- The Trope Namer is the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the commander of the Vogon fleet states that demolition of Earth "will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes". Granted, working out a population's units of time just to use it to tell them precisely how long they have before all being killed, and consciously pointing out that they've taken the trouble, is a typically Vogon thing to do.
- Ax, the Animorphs' resident alien, always gives time intervals in "your minutes"—no matter how many times the others tell him not to do so. In later books he develops a sense of fun about it.
Ax: We have twenty-six of your minutes left.
Marco: We're on Earth, Ax. They're everyone's minutes.
Ax: [quite deliberately] We now have twenty-five of your minutes.
"...fifteen of your miles."
"You don't have to say 'your miles'. They're everybody's miles."
"What about the countries that use kilometers? See? I am learning!"
- One bizarre example from before Ms. Applegate got her act together has Andalites making reference to "twelve Earth minutes" despite no humans being anywhere nearby. In later books Andalites simply use "minutes" or "feet" in a way that suggests a Translation Convention (especially as at least one of them doesn't even know Earth exists).
- The Ellimist, a mysterious Reality Warper, once did the "your minutes" thing. Wisely, Marco didn't say a word about it that time.
- Inverted in Dog Wizard by Barbara Hambly, where a wizard exposits this flaw in the spell of tongues. Later, when an alien has stated that his equipment can keep everybody safe for only two hours, he's startled when the heroine comments that time is almost up 100 minutes later — it's not even been one "hour" as far as he's concerned.
- Star Trek novels
- Diane Duane's Star Trek: The Original Series novel My Enemy, My Ally has the Enterprise arranging a rendezvous with a Romulan vessel. When setting the time, Kirk tells Uhura to give the Romulans a second-tick for reference; the officer he's speaking to tells him they know what a second means to Terrans. Meanwhile the glossary at the back of The Romulan Way specifies that a Rihannsu "minute" is actually 50.1 Terran seconds long.
- One of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels involved an alien threat with an absurdly specific (into the tenths of seconds, IIRC) deadline; the characters simply assumed it came out roundly in the aliens' units.
- Averted in Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth novels, where such Earth-derived time units are concisely referred to as "t-years" or the like. Presumably the "t" stands for Terra, and years on Hivehome would be "h-years".
- "T-years" terminology is used in Honor Harrington as well. In this case, the author included an appendix in one of the books explaining the different calendars in use. It's used thoroughly enough to be distracting sometimes, especially since the capital planet of most of the protagonists is only a half hour per day off of Earth time and has roughly the same years and months, yet the terminology will be stuck to even in emotional speeches or casual conversation.
- Truth in television. People that spend most of their professional lives dealing with tonnes (1000 kg) will tend to approximate with "several tonnes" when writing even if they're from the US where tons (2000 lb, almost exactly the same quantity) are the native unit. It is entirely believable that people working in a spaceship that uses terrestrial hours, years, etc as a standard time would default to those units whenever they aren't thinking about it.
- Inverted in Spider Robinson's Callahan's Secret, where the group on Earth makes telepathic contact with the approaching alien and explains what a second is "This interval [ ] is a second" and give the alien 30 of them to comply. The alien realizes that since a second is a meaningful interval for thought, the folks on Earth were vastly inferior.
- In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past comments that Old Fezziwig has spent "a few pounds of your mortal money."
- The Isaac Asimov short story The Last Trump revolves around the Devil's apparent triumph over God, having convinced Him/Her/It to bring about Judgement Day on Earth, thus "winning" since humanity as a whole has not yet conformed to the divine plan. However, the angel whose job is to watch over the Earth protests this move and eventually manages to get Judgement Day overturned since God's decree of when the Earth would end referred to a specific date, apparently based on the Gregorian calendar, but the angel points out that nowhere in the decree itself was the specific calendar system identified. Since there are so many different calendar systems in use on Earth, and they can not just randomly pick one, Judgement Day can not actually occur and the Earth continues as it always has. The story ends with the Devil, accepting that his immediate plan was foiled, planning a global calendar revision to mark the beginning of the "Atomic Era" for all mankind.
- In the later Foundation novels it's noted that the time standard on all inhabited planets is 24 hours although no planet has exactly a 24 hour day. This is due to the original Earther colonists establishing the day as 24 hours, even though by the time of the Foundation Earth is unknown except in legends.
- Here's another weird one: in Thief of Time, the History Monks have had to rebuild the structure of time after it became fragmented, synchronizing all of history using a unit of duration based on the human pulse rate. Presumably this is because only the monks, themselves, had retained the ability to move and function after this catastrophe, so had to use their own physiology as the basis for timing everything else. Makes sense ... except the human pulse rate varies all over the place, based on age, physical condition, activity level and mood. So whose pulse, in what mood, and doing what, did they actually choose to base it on? The Discworld may be timed on "One of your 'Lu-Tse Taking A Siesta While Feeling A Bit Put Upon By All This' minutes"!
- Potential Fridge Brilliance - they're History Monks, with All Monks Know Kung-Fu in full effect. Even normal human athletes have a much more stable heart rate than less-fit people, so they could well just have perfectly stable heart rates.
- In Wintersmith the Wintersmith makes itself a human body, goes into an inn, and orders dinner. It then triumphantly declares "I have eaten the human sausages", and the waitress informs him that they're pork, thank you very much.
- Subverted in Andrey Livadny's Living Space, where Sheila Norman is hooked up to a neural interface with a reactivated alien computer. The machine asks how long it has been off-line, and Sheila replies that it has been 3 million years, prompting the machine to clarify an unknown unit of measurement. She defines a year as the time for a full orbit around a star. The machine further attempts to clarify exactly what orbit she's talking about. Finally, it just scans her mind for the location of Earth and finds the planet in its database. Then it off-handedly comments that its creators visited Earth in the past and may have accidentally been responsible for Christianity and the myth of Jesus.
- In Dark Force Rising, Leia asks the Noghri matriarch how long ago the planet Honoghr suffered biosphere destruction. The matriarch answers her in Honoghr years, then reiterates it in standard years.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit – Will Travel. While Kip and Peewee are representing the human race in a Humanity on Trial scene, the computer system trying them says that it hasn't made a mistake in "...more than a million of your years."
- In Harry Turtledove's World War series, the Race will usually reference years as their years, which are roughly half as long as Earth years. However, it gets a little strange when they keep giving both versions to characters who should know about the conversion.
- In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, the titular character describes the water world Solaris as having a 27-hour day. When humans first settled its sparse islands, they didn't know how to adapt the human 24-hour biological cycle to 27 hours. French congratulates their ingenuity when, instead of trying to alter their genes, they invent... time zones. So, no other planet in this 'verse uses time zones, including Earth? Also, time zones wouldn't really solve the problem of a 27-hour day.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5:
- An alien claiming jurisdiction over a planet the station orbits, Epsilon III, says he will give Sinclair "ten of your hours to stand aside." The alien was reading from a phonetic script produced in a hurry; unlike the other aliens, he didn't actually know English at all.
- Cleverly inverted in the episode "By Any Means Necessary", where Sinclair refers to Narn light-years (as Narn years are longer than Earth years). He does this to give G'Kar a loophole that allows him to hold a Narn holy ceremony a few hours later than would normally be allowable.
- Referenced repeatedly in Stargate SG-1, usually by aliens. When one Ba'al says (via hologram) that Gen. O'Neill has one day to turn over a prisoner, O'Neill replies, "Is that one Earth day, or...?" before the Ba'al rolls his eyes and shuts off his end of the hologram.
- At least, unlike minutes, days are based directly on a physical phenomenon, so every planet that's not tidally locked with its primary has a day.
- On NASA space probe missions, the day on another planet is referred to as a "sol" (partly to distinguish its solar day from its sidereal day, but mostly so that people won't get confused when someone says "three days from now").
- Referenced again in the season nine episode Beachhead, when Col. Mitchell gives a Prior "thirty of our 'Earth minutes'" to shut down an active Stargate, prompting the following exchange:
- Shows up fairly frequently in the early seasons. For example, in "The Tok'ra, Part 1":
Daniel: (referring to Selmak's dying host Saroosh)
How old is she? Yosuf:
She will be 203 of your years
in a few of your days.
- Nicely averted in "Secrets", set exactly one Abydonian year after "Children of the Gods"; the length of time Kasuf agreed to keep the Abydos Stargate buried for, only uncovering it again so Daniel and Sha're could hopefully return on that date.
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- A strange example comes from "The Savage Curtain": The Excalbian recreation of Abraham Lincoln asks if they still measure time in minutes, to which Kirk responds that they "can convert to it".
- And this exchange from "Journey to Babel":
McCoy. Isn't it a little unusual for a Vulcan to retire at your age? After all, you're only a hundred and two.
Sarek. One hundred two point four three seven precisely, Doctor, measured in your years.
- "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
Commissioner Bele: For fifty thousand of your terrestrial years, I have been pursuing Lokai through the galaxy.
High Adviser Plasus: I've been here nearly an hour of your Earth time.
Balok: "We therefore grant you ten Earth time periods known as "minutes" to make preparations."
- "The Enterprise Incident"
Sub-commander Tal: We give you one of your hours. If you do not surrender your ship at the end of that time, your destruction is certain.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Peak Performance", a Ferengi attack vessel happens upon a Federation wargames exercise. Ferengi DaiMon Bractor misinterprets the situation, believing that the Enterprise's inferior sparring partner, USS Hathaway, must hold some secret value. He offers to let the Enterprise go unharmed if Picard will agree to hand over the Hathaway to him. He punctuates the demand with, "You have ten of your minutes".
- In a sketch on A Bit of Fry and Laurie, a shopkeeper tells a customer "That will be twenty of your Earth pounds". In another sketch, a gameshow contestant is informed that he has "thirty Earth seconds" to answer.
- The Imperial Master in Star Fleet informs his subordinates that they have two Earth months to complete their mission, despite the fact that there's no reason to use their enemy's time system when talking to each other...
- Inverted in Stingray (1964): Triton and other seafolk use Marine Minutes and Marine Seconds, and call their timespans such, even with no humans around.
- Doctor Who
- A very silly example in "Daleks in Manhattan". Just as the gamma radiation is about to strike the Empire State Building, the Daleks declare there are '40 Rels left' then immediately starts counting down in seconds! What, is the Rel just the Skaro term for second?
- A non-canonical 1966 feature film implied that there were precisely 50 rels to an Earth minute, making one exactly 1.2 seconds.
- The inverse of this happens in another episode. "The Time Monster" featured a rather phallic device (seriously, it must be seen to be believed◊) for detecting the Master's TARDIS which was calibrated in feet and miles... only they were Venusian feet and miles.
- And in the episode "The Creature from the Pit" Erato tells the Doctor to hold the beam for "five of your seconds" — even though the Doctor is no more from Earth than it is.
- She Spies episode 11. "He was supposed to be here three of your American days ago."
- Played for laughs in the Red Dwarf episode "Emohawk";
Kryten: They're giving us five hanaka to decide.
Rimmer: How long's a hanaka?
Kryten: Curiously enough, the same as one Earth minute.
The Cat: Five hanaka? That only gives us twenty-eight hours!
- Spoofed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Xander twists his and Willow's infidelity to their significant others to be their fault - Buffy comments "Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic."
- In Battlestar Galactica, it's Lampshaded in the episode "Greetings From Earth" where the Terran colonist asks, "Wait just a minute, what's a 'centon'?"
- In the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Flight of the War Witch," a Draconian reports tracking a Terran starfighter which is traveling "at a fraction of their light speed." Their light speed? Terrans have their own light speed?
- Lost in Space episode "Hunter's Moon". Professor Robinson is told that the hunt he will be forced to be a part of will last sixty Earth minutes.
- In one episode of The Thick of It, Stewart Pearson asks his colleagues for "thirty of your Earth seconds" before making an announcement. Though strictly speaking Stewart's not an alien, just an obnoxious PR hack.
- In The Bible, God tells Adam and Eve that the day they eat from the Tree of Knowledge, they will die. Since Adam lives about 900 years after this, the general interpretation is that God spoke metaphorically that they would turn mortal. One Jewish tradition, however, says that God was merciful and gave them a "day" in Heavenly reckoning—which is one thousand years.
Stretching this trope a bit, more liberal interpretations of Genesis suggest that the seven "days" of Creation could also refer to longer periods of time. Though this is largely used to fit evolutionary and astronomical theories, some of these interpretations go back a few thousand years.
- Spore completely ignores this, every single race in the entire galaxy seems to use the same measurements of time for no apparent reason.
- In Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich, Mentor makes the throwaway comment that he is proficient in "several thousand languages, of which Earth Spanish is one". Now, think about that one for a moment...
- In Enemy Territory Quake Wars, Strogg players will hear the countdown announcer use the phrase "Ten Earth seconds remaining!"
- The Mass Effect series mostly has a very well-thought-out galactic culture, so it's truly strange in the third game, when everyone starts going out of their way to give units of time in "solar days" (it's unlikely to be Translation Convention, either, since they're all round numbers). Why not Citadel Days, or Thessia Days? No explanation is ever given.
- Starcraft has a particularly bizarre one. While it might make some sense that Terrans still refer to Earth years as standard (despite their having spread to planets with a very diverse range of orbital speeds), the fact that the Protoss do so does not. For example, Fenix (a Protoss) has more than three centuries on Raynor (and the Protoss' ages in the manual are given in years). That or one Aiur year is the same as one on Earth.
You sound like a tired old man, Fenix. Fenix:
Do not let the fact that I am three hundred and sixty-eight years older
than you dull your impression of me, young Raynor. I can still... how do you Terrans say it... "throw down with the best of them"!
- There's a College Humor skit where a genie claims to have been imprisoned for "millions of your Earth eternities."
- Chakona Space: Different stories play with this thanks to genuine aliens as well as Terran colonies on distant planets that, for obvious reasons, use a different clock and calendar.
- The Onion: "Alien World To Help Out Syria Since This One Refuses To.
- One Homestar Runner cartoon involves Strong Badia starting its own space program. Its first mission involves sending "15 Earth dollars on a round trip to the closest reaches of space" in the hopes that, according to Strong Bad's very poor understanding of the Theory of Relativity, it will have multiplied to one million dollars by the time it returns.
- The Axeman of New Orleans stated in a letter where he claimed himself to be a demon from Hell that he would kill again on March 19, 1919 at "12:15 (Earth time)".
- A variant actually happened back when the metric system wasn't that widespread, and countries used different measurements. It can sometimes be seen today between Imperial and Metric system users. In old Swedish novels translated from other languages it used to be very common to find someone traveling so or so many miles, and there would be a footnote telling that this was an English or Russian "mile", and give a conversion. The writer Falstaff Fakir spoofed it when writing a Three Musketeers parody; at one point a number of minutes are described as French minutes "of which there are a whole lot in one Swedish".
- This is still valid today when speaking of miles, due to the difference between statute miles and nautical miles. Not to mention Survey miles and radar miles.
- Not to mention the quirkiness of the imperial system gives us three different gallons (one British and two American, one liquid and one [rarely used] dry) and three different families for weights (avoirdupois weights for most things, troy weights for precious metals and the now obsolete apothecaries' weights for pharmaceuticals).
- In reference to this trope, whimsical reviews of science fiction products in the UK mainstream press tend to give the price in "your Earth pounds", which is a very unlikely name for a global currency.
- People working with Mars Rovers have to go by the Martian Day (called "sol") schedule - they have to go to work a half hour later every Earth day, because Mars rotates a little slower than Earth does. If needed, the day is further divided in slightly longer hours and seconds. Many people working on the MER project had wristwatches specifically calibrated to Martian time.
- Because interstellar units such as light-years and parsecs are also derived from Earth's orbit around the Sun, it would be necessary to specify whose planetary orbit you are using as the baseline. So an extraterrestrial alien could state, "I come from thirty of your light-years away."
- Not just astronomical measurements (light years, parsecs, etc), but many measurements. The meter, for example, is currently defined as a precise number of units light travels in a second. However, the number of units was chosen so that the distance derived would match the distance obtained from earlier standards, which all boil down to the arbitrary distance decided back when the meter was invented. Meanwhile, the second itself was initially defined as a specific fraction of the earth's orbit around the sun, and the scientific unit used today is simply a precise statement of that measurement in terms that can be checked against an atomic clock.
- In SI Units, (nearly) all the base units were updated to provide a "fundamental" reference (for example, one second is defined in relation the frequency of radiation coming off a specific configuration of an atom, and a meter is defined as the distance light travels in relation to a (fraction) of a second). So those units could be accurately obtained somewhere off Earth. Oddly, kilogram was redefined to remove its direct relation to a universal phenomenon, and it's instead defined as exactly equal to an official kilogram prototype.
- Although, with the other units you could eventually exactly define a kilogram.
- As odd as it sounds the British and Americans have/had different billions; in British English a billion is a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). QI once looked into this and was curious which one the Bank of England uses, apparently the person answering the phone said it was sure to be English but double checked; returning to the phone to meekly confirm it was the American billion. Of course the same problem pops up with a Trillion too.