Remettre les pendules à l’heure

PenduleThis weekend in France we perform what for me is the most detested of rituals: setting the clocks forward. Spring forward, fall back. That hour will haunt me for weeks, even months. When I wake at my usual 5:30 a.m. it will be darker than usual, although at this time of year that will change soon enough – with spring springing, soon the birds will be up almost before they go to sleep. As for me, like the farm animals, I will be hungry at all the wrong times. Awake too late, tired too early.

“It’s only an hour. Get over it,” my husband says. Humph. It’s all right for some, especially those able to sleep ten hours at a stretch. That hour matters to me. It is lost, if not forever, at least misplaced until the fall when it will land like manna back in my day, making that last Sunday in October feel deliciously long before sending me into a tailspin for several more weeks.

For some mysterious reason, the springing or falling always occurs a week or two before or after the switch is made in North America, temporarily adding to or diminishing the usual 6-hour time difference between Paris and Toronto. I’m no good with numbers but that “décalage horaire” (time difference) is indelibly inked in my brain, as if my biological clock has a dual time zone.

There is no easy parlance for the time change in French. It’s just “changer l’heure” or “le passage à l’heure d’été / à l’heure d’hiver.” The time change from winter time to summer time is a simple fact of French life that, like most things, people seem to accept as well and good.

The expression, “remettre les pendules à l’heure,” describes the act of setting an old-fashioned pendulum clock but in common usage actually has another meaning altogether: to set things straight. This comes in rather handy in France. Things just have a way of needing to be straightened out.

How do you feel about the time change? Love, hate or indifferent?


  1. zipfslaw1 · March 26, 2016

    Ah, thanks for the new vocabulary (and expression)!

    • MELewis · March 26, 2016

      Mais, de rien, Monsieur. It is a pleasure to share these things, especially with an audience who appreciates linguistics! 😉

  2. poshbirdy · March 26, 2016

    Glad of the reminder, thank you! I have no real issues with it, so I guess I’m just programmed. I actually rather like the way the year is punctuated by the changes

    • MELewis · March 26, 2016

      That is a great attitude, Madame Posh, and one I will strive to emulate!

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  4. Susanne · March 26, 2016

    I too loathe the “spring forward” time change. The Sunday it happens seems to fly by and I feel like I’m racing the clock all week. Yep. Don’t like it.

    • MELewis · March 26, 2016

      Glad to know I’m not the only one. This year we have a long weekend with Easter Monday a holiday here, so perhaps that will soften the blow… 😉

  5. Katherine Wikoff · March 27, 2016

    Someone here in the States had a great idea: to “spring forward” on Friday afternoon at 4:00pm. So much less painful to leap ahead to 5:00 on a Friday afternoon than to lose precious sleep in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Now if only the powers that be could get on board!

    • MELewis · March 29, 2016

      I’d vote for that. Much easier to absorb the loss of an hour over before-dinner drinks!

  6. George Lewis · March 27, 2016


    • MELewis · March 29, 2016

      Wow, for once you have no opinion 😉

  7. davidprosser · March 27, 2016

    I’m fairly indifferent to it as far as sleep goes as I get up early enough not to have to scramble to be ready for anything. It’s really the Fall Back that makes a difference I suppose in making it lighter for kids to go to school and still light as they come home.I’m sure there are ways to overcome this problem though if anyone wants to drop the system and bring the world into line thus saving the brains of all you who have to work out time differences between two countries before ringing their nearest and dearest.
    xxx Mammoth Hugs and wishes for a Happy Easter Mel xxx

    • MELewis · March 29, 2016

      Somebody always claims it saves money or a light bulb burning somewhere but I don’t buy it, David. More light at the end of the day for the kids to play outside is perhaps the only argument that holds weight with me. As for wracking my brains, fat chance anything will prevent that! 😉 Hope your Easter was chocolate filled!

  8. alifesgayventure · March 27, 2016

    i have my weather website says paris sunrise is 7.38am CEST and sunset 8.14pm CEST. i wonder what is CEST? also what is the local time where u are at sunrise and sunset? it surely cannot be that sunrise for u is so late at 7.38am. if u are 2hrs after GMT, than local time must be 5.38am right? whereas before the change it was 4.38am. (so early, no wonder u feel the difference)

    • MELewis · March 29, 2016

      Very confused about the sunrise/sunset times. My weather app says the same almost: 7:18 sunrise and 20:00 sunset. But it is light far earlier and later than those times. Perhaps it is the way they define it? As for CEST – it is Central European Summer Time. We are UTC + 1 according to this map: All very confusing! 😉

  9. Mél@nie · March 27, 2016

    You already know that I love your posts… ❤ this expression must have been invented by the French Swiss because of their "cuckoo-clocks"… 😉
    * * *
    @"How do you feel about the time change? Love, hate or indifferent?" – quelle barbe, I dislike it "grave"!!! 😉 mon cher et tendre s'en coccupe 2 fois/an…
    * * *
    Have a merry Easter Sunday, pas trop de chocolat & friendly hugs… ❤

    • MELewis · March 29, 2016

      Ha, ha….mon cher et tendre would sleep through all time changes if it weren’t for me and his iPhone! 😉 Merci Mél@anie – Easter break was lovely and I need no excuse to enjoy chocolate! Bises xo

  10. Lisa @ cheergerm · March 27, 2016

    Ha, great post Mel. I too am greatly perturbed by the changing of clocks. I never quite seem to get it right. But I hate the loss of an hours sleep more than the gain of one hour sleep, to be sure.

    • MELewis · March 28, 2016

      I’m not sure what the solution is either, Lisa, but there does seem to be quite a range of reactions. Trying to ignore it completely but I keep looking at the clock and thinking: “Can it really be that time?” Maybe I’ll just go back to bed… 😉

  11. wanderingcows · March 28, 2016

    I agree about the jarring effect of getting up an hour earlier. Although I have to say that it’s better these days with smartphones because we don’t end up an hour early or late to meeting someone because we were ignorant about the time change. I’ve been guilty of that quite a few times.

    • MELewis · March 29, 2016

      So true about the technology making it easier! My husband was just saying the same thing this morning when his @#1*&*(&*(# phone alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. (that’s still 4:00 a.m. to me!). Good point though, no excuses for being late! 🙂

  12. anneharrison · March 30, 2016

    our clicks fall back this weekend in Australia – I look forward to it, in the hope I will -this year! – get out of bed earlier (write my novel, walk the dog etc etc)

    • MELewis · March 31, 2016

      Sounds like you are one after my own heart – an eternal optimist (despite all the venting I do here…). Much luck with morning routine, I do believe that is what it’s all about!

  13. jackiemallon · March 30, 2016

    I am suffering from the opposite side. Used to the European time I felt it was too early when, a few weeks ago, we turned the hour back here in the US. And now you come to mention it, I am weirdly hungry for lunch way too early. It never occurred to me!

    • MELewis · March 31, 2016

      Ha, ha….it’s good to have an excuse for being hungry early, eh? And let’s just admit the European way is better! 😉

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  15. verna0072001 · February 14, 2019

    Bonjour, je suis désolée pour embêter vous. Mais j’ai un question de la poste. Parce que je suis train de apprent le française. Le question est ‘ comment mettre ‘Remettre les pendules à l’heure’ que le phrase dans la sentence?’
    ‘Remettons les pendules à l’heure.’ C’est vrai?

    • MELewis · February 14, 2019

      Oui, cela me semble exact!

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