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Thirteenth stroke of the clock

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 09, 2008 at 17:38:

In Reply to: Thirteenth stroke of the clock posted by RRC on April 09, 2008 at 16:55:

: : Dear Forum Members,
: : It is requested to kindly furnish the exact meaning of phrase/saying/ideom - "Thirteenth stroke of the clock".

: I think to give an exact meaning would require some context. "Stroke of the clock" refers to the bell/chime being struck on the hour, i.e. a clock rings a bell once for each hour of the time. One ring = 1 o'clock, two rings = 2 o'clock, etc. Traditional clocks only mark 12 hours (after 12 rings, the next hour would have one ring), so the thirteenth stroke of the clock is when the clock announces an impossible time.

One sense in which the phrase is regularly used was coined, I believe, by A P Herbert, the humorous writer on British legal matters. He compared a remark by a witness in a court case to "the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock" - the remark was not merely unbelievable in itself, but proved the witness himself to be so completely unreliable that it discredited everything he had previously said. (VSD)