There is one of Murphys rules: Dimensions will be given in the least usable units. Velocity, for example, will be given in Ångström per fortnight.

But there is no good German word for fortnight within this sentence: "Geschwindigkeiten werden zum Beispiel in Ångström pro Vierzehntagen angegeben" sounds odd in German. "Ångström pro Woche" is good German but less funny. But I don't like "Ångström pro zwei Wochen" too.

Another meaning but possible in German: "Ångström pro Vierteljahr" oder "Ångström pro Quartal". But in English, it can't be expressed precisely with one word only "Ångström per quarter of a year".

  • 3
    Just use a similarly absurd comparison, like parsec per femtosecond, for an example from the other end of the spectrum.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:06
  • 1
    Also, didn't Murphy originally use furlongs instead of Ångström?
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:13
  • 1
    @Ingmar Entirely irrelevant footnote: Google's unit conversion mechanism does actually know furlong per fortnight
    – tofro
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 17:02
  • Sometimes you can't translate everything literally, and you have to pick the aspect you want to translate. The point of the text is clearly "unsuitable units of measurement", and it doesn't really matter if it's 14 days or not. So you pick a similar absurd measurement in the target language, and one that sounds natural. "Vierteljahr" is a good choice. It doesn't matter in this context that the actual value is different.
    – dirkt
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 18:40
  • Vierteljahr is too comprehensible. Everyone knows what a Vierteljahr is. Take Industrieminute. It's well defined and is used, but hardly anyone not into the topic knows what it is. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrieminute
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 23:11

2 Answers 2


I think the answer could be easy by looking at the origin of fortnight.

The word derives from the Old English: fēowertyne niht, meaning "fourteen nights".

You could use:

Geschwindigkeiten werden zum Beispiel in Ångström per Vierzehn Nächte angegeben.

Using "Vierzehn Nächte" instead of "Vierzehn Tagen" brings across the curiosity of using a weird and unintuitive unit for measurement of time.


"Geschwindigkeiten werden zum Beispiel in Ångström pro Vierzehntagen angegeben" sounds odd in German.

I think it's okay to translate it like this. The whole purpose of the phrase is to sound odd because you actually should not give velocity in angstrom per fortnight but rather in meter per second or something similar. So the question is rather, does it sound overly odd? It doesn't and German speakers will understand "pro Vierzehntagen" equally well as "pro zwei Wochen".

In German, fortnight is used less often, so its translation may sound a bit odd. The natural unit is rather a single week, also indicated by the use of "two weeks" (zwei Wochen) to describe a fortnight.

I would have used different units for the indented meaning:

"Velocity, for example, will be given in nanometer per week." - "Geschwindigkeiten werden zum Beispiel in Nanometer pro Woche angeben."

The idea is that these are still hilarious choices for units of velocity but closer to what people actually use, so it sounds less odd.

  • 2
    Nanometer is metric - Don't think that qualifies. Way too easy. "Klafter" sounds nice.
    – tofro
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:58
  • @tofro Indeed, Klafter sounds very nice and would work here. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 17:52
  • Ångström is practically metric, i.e. as metric as bar. I don’t think, Ångström should have qualified in the first place ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 23:25

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