Can I say good afternoon at 4pm

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From about a decade ago, the switch on the tick of the clock from greeting in terms of "Good morning" to greeting in terms of  "Good afternoon" has become a real obsession.

This is by far in contradiction to our St-Martin ancestral language culture. For us, "Good Afternoon" started after the "SUN" has taken its definitive westward course.

Furthermore, by our biblical knowledge if there should be a transition hour from “Morning to “Afternoon” it should likely be from 3.PM and not from 12 o’clock on the dot(Read:Matthew 20- 1- 8 Parable of the workers in the vineyard)

By etymology  “noon” which is the Latin word “Nona”, meaning ninth. (Nona hora meant ninth hour). In the Bible the ninth hour is 3pm

Therefore, it may not be by simple coincidence that 3.PM coincide with the usual time from which traditionally our St-Martin Elders would begin to greet in terms of “Good Afternoon”, 

If our language has a place in our culture, we must not be too quick in disregarding our cultural, ancestral or current conversational use of words to embrace outer world influences we often consider to be the bright and best manner. 

Our Elders knowledge is often grounded on profound ancestry doctrine, often rooted in the Holy Scriptures.

Check how ridiculously straying away from our culture leads:

I have in memory this young man, in my former St-James/Marigot neighborhood, Rastafarian, very intelligent and very polite guy, that will always greet me in terms of “Good morning Mr. BALY or Good afternoon Mr. BALY”, at times he will question me, “Mr. BALY what do you think of this or of that?”

I will spend some time explaining to him my point of view.

Such was his politeness for over the fifteen years I had been living in that area, then to my great surprise, one day  before greeting me as usual, he questioned me: “Mr. BALY what time is it? Because I do not know if it is before or after 12 0’clock, and whether I should say "Good morning" or good Afternoon”

In my long lifetime, this was not only first news to me but also was to put me into a critical situation, due to the fact that I personally do not wear a watch or carry the time on me by any other means.

Since that day and for the last six to seven years, my attention have been awaken to the fact that this was a new obsessional style: One consulting his watch before saying: Good afternoon”.

Looking at one’s watch before wishing: Good afternoon has even infiltrated our Churches, it has become customary to see speakers front the pulpit of the Church not only consulting their watch before they greet, but even more absurd, for one speaker to the next to be switching within the same Service from “Goodmorning” to “Good afternoon” from 12 o’clock on the dot.

Point of view on this new style:

Born and grown-up in St-martin with parents, grand parents, uncles, aunts, Sunday school’s teachers, public school’s teachers, I was always taught to be polite and respectful to every one I meet by saying good morning” or “good afternoon” or “good evening” or “good night” etc

Never I was told that I needed a chronometer to be accurate in using any of theses good manners greeting. ‘Afternoon’ was never distinguished from ‘Morning’ by 12 o’clock on the dot.

The switch from ‘Morning’ to ‘Afternoon’ was after lunch break interval, usually about 2.30 PM or 3.00 PM. the time we take back up our second haft of day school or work

At school or at work during the entire morning working hours even if extended after 12 o’clock, we say “Good morning”

Back to school or back to work after lunch break and during the entire second haft of the day working hours even if extended a little after sunset we say “good afternoon”

After sunset up to bedtime we say “good evening” when meeting another and “good night” when leaving another.

As a matter of fact, in the days of my youth, having a watch was a luxury, not much people could have afford, today, watches, pocket electronics and cellular phones giving the time are very common,

Today before embracing this new culture we should not neglect the true fact that there is still a certain unprivileged social class in our society, in particular youth suffering from society exclusion, to whom having a watch yet remains an unaffordable luxury and the illeterates that cannot read the time.

Suddenly deciding to subordinate customary good manners greetings to the lecture of a chronometer is making politeness an affair of the only wealthy and literates, this to the exclusion of children and the unfortunate that cannot afford to be equipped with luxurious items giving the time of the day or simply cannot read the time of the day. 


Most words origin (etymology) is either Latin or Greek. Some words are simple while others can be a combination of other words.

Definitions of words are giving in dictionaries, at times we may also have to refer to the common conversational using of the word. But given full sense to a word base on its only prefix and noun composition can be misleading.

Afternoon is not written in two words but in one word, to define this word by its grammatical composition (prefix after” and noun noon) may look smart, but only from a grammatical point of view.

Take as example the word “Evening”, in our language “evening” begins from sunset and ends at bedtime, yet it is compose of the prefix: “Eve,” meaning the day before?

The obsession turn this newly practice has taken is more absurd when considering our French education, greeting the time of the day has no link with the exact hour of the day.

Can we in the French language greetings word “Bonjour”  dare to change the prefix “Bon” to “sale or mauvais” depending on the “Good” or “bad” condition of the weather, the event or circumstance?

In French “Bonjour” is use to greet from morning to sunset, after sunset and “Bonsoir” is use when meeting others and “bonne nuit” when retiring from others.

The French word for “afternoon” is “après-midi”. The word “Après-midi” is simply used to differentiate AM hours from PM hours starting from 1PM to the end of fifth PM hour ( Ex: Une heure trente de l’après-midi – Cinq heures quarante cinq de l’après-midi).

In step with our elders greetings language:

Today whether meeting at someone wake, at a funeral, at a party, at a wedding, at church, we often use the same greeting words: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good evening, Good night..”

We were forewarned by our great Elders “never to say “Good night” when leaving a wake for the spirit of the dead will follow you to your home.”

This warning is all forgotten, we all say “Good night” on leaving a wake. Today no one ever testifies on encountering with spirits. But our Elders had many testimonies to give.

What our Elders really meant is that wishing a ‘Good’ time of the day or night at a death ceremony in particular was not appropriate to the circumstance.

In an event as meeting at a wake in memory of a deceased, sincere greetings to the bereaved family, parents, friends, should be in words that reflect the real feelings of bereavement in our hearts.