SOME WAYS MEN USED TO TELL TIME. Thomas Meaney had a review in the TLS of a book by Vanessa Ogle: THE GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION OF TIME, 1870-1950. Meaney begins with the efforts of E.P. Thompson to document units of time that were in use before, as Thompson believed, capitalism replaced “natural task-oriented time”.
Among the units of time the E.P. Thompson found which were replaced by hours, minutes and seconds were:
the time it takes to cook rice
the time it took to roast a locust
“a pater noster wyle”—the time it takes to say the Lord’s Prayer.
There was also a unit called “a pissing while”—although that would seem to me to be highly variable, depending on circumstances.