Why is CET called MET?

Peter Hullah Peter.Hullah at eurocontrol.fr
Tue Jun 18 13:06:45 UTC 1996

Markus Kuhn wrote:
> Peter Hullah <Peter.Hullah at eurocontrol.fr> writes:
> >Simple. "Middle European Time" is not the English translation of
> >"Mitteleuropaeische Zeit", "Central European Time" is! We don't say,
> >and never have said, "Middle Europe" in English.
> Ok, perhaps you are right here. What term uses the EU document in which
> the summer time switching rules are announced?

I have no idea, but it's quite probable that they could have used MET,
having found it in some standard or other. It doesn't make the standard 
correct just because the EU uses it.

> The official German term "Weltzeit" also does not translate into
> "world time" but into "universal time" in English.

Which is crazy since it has nothing to do with the universe and lots to do
with the world! It strikes me as somewhat arrogant, and must really annoy
the green men on their planet near alpha-centuri!!

> >Just watch Sky TV, EuroSport TV, BBC Prime, or listen to Radio Luxemburg
> >(if it's still on the air in English on 208m as it was "when I was a kid"
> What the TV and radio stations use does not necessarily indicate what is
> correct terminology. Journalists tend to be pretty ignorant about such topics
> often.

They generally use what their audience is accustomed to using - there's no
point in communicating with people in a way they don't understand! (It's only
places like France which forbid journalists from using other than the
"correct terminology" and even then, it only applies to journalists paid
by the state.) 

In this case, their English-speaking audience talks about Romania/Bulgaria/etc
being in Central Europe, not in "Middle Europe". They are not likely to take 
very kindly to some "international committee" changing their language for 
them for no apparent reason. "Correct terminology" should, at least, be
based on correct usage. How would you feel if you were told that, from now
on, you had to refer to "Zentraleuropa" because it was the translation
of "Central Europe" which was the "correct terminology".

> For example: BBC still says GMT, although the correct term has been
> Universal Time (UT) since 1972 (when I was an exactly 1.00 year old kid ;-).
> Astronomers have been using the term Universal Time even since a
> conference in 1928.

I was under the impression that the correct term was "Coordinated Universal
Time" and its abbrevation was "UTC" ("CUT" having, so I heard, been ruled
out as it's a vulgar word in Dutch!) Again, the BBC uses what its audience
understands - GMT and BST. The French say "Heure d'hiver" and "Heure d'ete"
and, when setting up computers' timezones, abbreviate them to "HIV" and "ETE".
It has nothing to do with the "official name" of the time zone. 

On the other hand, if it had been decided to call retain the name "GMT" 
I can't imagine it being changed to "Greenwich Average Time" on the whim 
of a committee. I don't, therefore, see why such a committee has decided
to rename "CET", which is perfectly good English, understood by nearly
every English-speaker and has been in use for ages, to "MET" which is none
of these.

My original question was "Why?". I am sure that there must be a good reason
for this term's being the way it is. Is "CET" a swear-word in some other


Peter H.C. Hullah                    Technical Services
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