Je vais remettre les pendules à l’heure.

Je vais remettre les pendules à l’heure.

zhuh vay ruh-met-truh lay pah-dew lah luhr. Click below to hear this.*

I’m going to set things straight.

Or literally, I’m going to reset the clocks (put them back on time).

As usual, you may wonder, how did we get from here (a misunderstanding, perhaps) to there (clocks)?

We don’t think much about our clocks anymore, except twice a year when we change from standard to daylight time and back. Even then, some of our clocks reset themselves automatically, since they are connected to the internet.

An old pendulum clock, on the other hand–like this one that was a wedding gift to my grandparents in 1914–needed daily or weekly winding. You would make the rounds of the house, attending to the clock in each room. My great-grandfather wound this one every Saturday night at exactly midnight, I am told.

Not only that. Clocks like this had to be leveled with absolute precision, or the pendulum would swing unevenly and the clock would stop. The weight on the pendulum had to be adjusted up or down at times, if the clock was gaining or losing time.

And you couldn’t just twirl the hands randomly to the right hour or minute. My clock is designed to strike every quarter-hour. If you didn’t move the hands in exactly the right way, you would end up with a clock that struck 4:15 at 7:30.

Alas, I was careless with my clock, and it no longer strikes–nor even runs. It reads a permanent 4:30, to my great sadness.

That happens with relationships sometimes, too. If we don’t handle them with the care they deserve, they can run wrong or break. And it can be a lot of work to fix them, to set things straight again. Valentine’s Day is coming. Be nice to your friends, your family, and your clocks.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:



One response to “Je vais remettre les pendules à l’heure.

  1. Yes, you remembered that clock’s history correctly, and it was nice to see its picture. Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, our living room clock is stopped because I tried to reset its hands without adequate regard for the quarter-hour strike, and it’s now out of sync with the time. Maybe by your next visit I will have summoned the courage to ask our Manor clock fancier to set things right again. Love to you and the old resident of our living room mantel piece. Maman

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