Which Hand is the Big Hand?

“Clock with one hand” by Rick Payette is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


I don’t know about you, but when I was learning how to tell time, it didn’t help me to be told about the big hand and the little hand. I didn’t know what they meant. When they said the big hand was on the 10 and the little hand was on the 2, did they mean it was ten after ten, or ten to two? (Let’s not even talk about the fact that they weren’t really “on” those numbers anyway, merely close to them.) Was the big hand the long one or the wide one? Was the little hand the short one or the thin one? This wasn’t helped by the fact that, on the kitchen clock in our home, the total size of the hour hand and the minute hand appeared to be roughly the same. That is, the short, wide one and the long, narrow one appeared to cover the same area, making them the same size. Now I really didn’t know what to think.

I’m still glad I learned on an analog clock, though. The shape of it and the positions of the hands lent themselves to concrete visualizations of the time of day and where in the hour one was. I think it had a strong effect on the form taken by my temporo-spatial synesthesia, as I explain in that post. There may have been some confusion in the beginning, but it worked out in the end.

When I was teaching my son how to tell time, though, I made sure to refer to the hands as “long” and “short,” to save him the confusion.

rjb

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