Why are fractions of 1/32 referred to as seconds? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 11:35 AM Thread Starter
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Why are fractions of 1/32 referred to as seconds?

I’m 70 years old and have been measuring fractions since I was in elementary school and I just never thought or questioned why 32’s are called seconds.

I just got a call from my sister to settle an argument with her husband over the term 1/32 as 30 seconds because she only knew seconds as referring to time. After confirming that my brother-in-law was correct, I started to wonder why and Google did not know. So I’m curious if anybody here ever wondered about it and maybe has an answer.

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post #2 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 11:50 AM
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I am two years younger and a fraction with the lower number of 32 has always been thirty-seconds. Maybe in part because thirty-secondths is too hard for English speaking people to pronounce. Unlike 1/64 or a 1/128.


at first I thought you were referring to seconds which are 1/60th of a minute which in turn is 1/60th of a degree. there being 360 degrees in a circle, 21,600 minutes in a circle and 1,296,000 seconds in a circle.
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post #3 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by holtzdreher View Post
I am two years younger and a fraction with the lower number of 32 has always been thirty-seconds. Maybe in part because thirty-secondths is too hard for English speaking people to pronounce. Unlike 1/64 or a 1/128......
It does seem a bit awkward to say thirty two's, but that could be because I've never used that term before.

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post #4 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 01:39 PM
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I'm English, and 70 years old. I was taught and have always referred to them as thirtysecondth, the same as fourth, fifth, etc.
Of course "American English" is a whole different ball game.
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post #5 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 02:19 PM
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I just got a call from my sister to settle an argument with her husband over the term 1/32 as 30 seconds because she only knew seconds as referring to time.
I busted a gut when I read this (no offense intended to anyone).

The fraction is not referred to as 30-seconds, but is merely an error in what people think they hear. It is kind of like how people frequently mis-hear song lyrics for years, and then discover the real words later.....

“Excuse me while I kiss this guy”, instead of the actual, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” from Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’.

However, it does depend on how the fraction is used. Never, ever, should it be considered as "30 seconds" (a numerical measure of time). When used solely to describe a number or fraction, thirty-seconds is appropriate. For example, 7/32 would correctly be stated seven-thirty-seconds. However, when describing the unit of measure, that should be written or spoken as "thirty-secondths of an inch" or even seven-thirty-secondths of an inch". The key difference is the characterization of an inch being divided into 32 intervals.
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post #6 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 02:54 PM
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Well, language is an interesting thing. Let's think about this a bit. 1/8 we call "one eighth", that is, eight with a"th" tacked on the end. Similarly, 1/16 is one sixteenth and 1/64 is one sixtyfourth.
so why wouldn't 1/32 be one thirtytwoth? Although it does sound like something you might hear at a paleontologist's convention
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post #7 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 03:48 PM
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no "seconds" in New Zealand in the 60's
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post #8 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 07:01 PM
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It's a spelling error ......

They are not seconds, but secondths. Not a measure of time, but a fractional measurement like 64ths. Kinda like "quarters" is not a monetary term in woodworking, but a fractional measurement.


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post #9 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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They are not seconds, but secondths. Not a measure of time, but a fractional measurement like 64ths. Kinda like "quarters" is not a monetary term in woodworking, but a fractional measurement.


I forgot about quarter inch or half inch. LOL I was going through the fractions in my head and was thinking thirty seconds or secondths was the only one.

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Whoo Boy! Being home bound is starting to show...


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post #11 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
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post #12 of 29 Old 03-23-2020, 11:32 PM
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Thank you, Rick.

Until your post, I didn't understand what people were talking about.

Just slurring words is the answer.

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post #13 of 29 Old 03-24-2020, 08:43 AM
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I'm sure people say '30 seconds' largely because '30 secondths' is not easy to say.
To say "one thirty secondth' is easy. its that plural one that's a killer - that 's' after the 'th'.
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post #14 of 29 Old 03-24-2020, 05:15 PM Thread Starter
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I grew up in Pittsburgh where they speak "pittsburghese" so there are a lot of words that I pronounce wrong as it is. LOL

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post #15 of 29 Old 03-24-2020, 09:32 PM
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I grew up in Pittsburgh where they speak "pittsburghese" so there are a lot of words that I pronounce wrong as it is. LOL

It's every Pittsburgher's right to mispronounce words. It's either in the Constitution or the Bible. I don't remember which.


But I never in my life heard anyone refer to thirty-secondths.

We say twenty-second, thirty-second, forty-second, fifty-second, sixty-second, seventy-second, eighty-second, and so on.

What would the great 82nd Airborne be? The Eighty-secondth?
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post #16 of 29 Old 03-24-2020, 10:22 PM
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I grew up in Pittsburgh where they speak "pittsburghese" so there are a lot of words that I pronounce wrong as it is. LOL
In Brooklynese, there is dese, dose and dem. Along with a container for whisky spelled with two "d"s. As, boddle.

But here, youse guys are OK.

And the most beautiful Holiday Lights in the country are 'Light Up Night' as viewed from Grandview Drive.
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post #17 of 29 Old 03-25-2020, 12:48 AM Thread Starter
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It's every Pittsburgher's right to mispronounce words. It's either in the Constitution or the Bible. I don't remember which.
That's really pretty funny. I love it.

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post #18 of 29 Old 03-25-2020, 07:01 AM
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In Brooklynese there are no 'r's at the end of a word. Sometimes even in the middle of a word.
Example: The waughta in the Hudson Riva is very doity. In the maunin' you can see boids sitting on the coib eating woims. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and always considered English as a foreign language. Incidentally, the 'r' in 'foreign is actually used. Go figya.
Almost forgot, there are special occasions when 'r's can be inserted where they dont belong. as in the word turlet (toilet).
The 'g' in the suffix -ing, is also omitted.
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post #19 of 29 Old 03-25-2020, 11:26 AM
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Here is our own @Kenbo, saying "3/32 of an inch" at 4:01 and again at 4:19 and other times into his latest video. The post went up today. Listen for yourself:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f30/...2/#post2101609

What we are discussing here are "ordinal numbers". Here is a section of a Wikipedia article describing them:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Englis...rdinal_numbers

I just looked at four different writing reference books on my bookshelf. Two of them are specific to technical writing, where numbers are important. None of the four books answers our question. I also did some web research. I found many examples of "seconds" but no examples of "secondths." If "secondths" was ever used in the past, my hunch is that it is an archaic English form. A living example is the current usages of "whilst" and "while."

We are not the only group wrestling with this vitally important issue. This thread deals with the same question:
https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...t-digit-of-the
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post #20 of 29 Old 03-25-2020, 12:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
Here is our own @Kenbo, saying "3/32 of an inch" at 4:01 and again at 4:19 and other times into his latest video. The post went up today. Listen for yourself:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f30/...2/#post2101609

A living example is the current usages of "whilst" and "while."

We are not the only group wrestling with this vitally important issue. This thread deals with the same question:
https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...t-digit-of-the
I shan't discuss it further.
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