Halfpenny thoughts no. 4 – Le quatorze Laurel

british_pre-decimal_halfpenny_1967_reverseOne of the best things of the French Revolution, in my opinion, are the beautiful new names which were assigned to the months of the year. I especially like misty Brumaire,  frosty Frimaire  and fruity Fructidor. Rainy Pluviôse is quite nice too.

Compare our tired names, particularly September, October, November and December. These just mean seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth month, respectively, although they are now the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth, because Julius Caesar and Augustus elbowed their way into the calendar by force, dedicating July and August to themselves. Augustus even pinched a day from February to ensure that his month was just as long as his uncle’s.

Julius Caesar was definitely genocidal, Augustus in comparison merely enthusiastically homicidal.  So why have we kept the names of these monsters in our year? I think the time has come to deal with this. There are a few ways of doing this:

  1. Go back to the lovely French Revolutionary names. This would involve a couple of problems, though. Namely that you would need to reverse the order of the names in Antipodean countries so as to keep track with the actual seasons. Frimaire would not be very good to use in an Australian summer. Also, in order to keep some coherence, tropical countries would have to have one year-long month called “Solaire”, with 365 days. At most they could have a month of  Pluviôse for the monsoon season.
  2. To maintain consistency, keep July and August and name all the other months after equally nasty dictators and tyrants. We could have a global poll to decide which figures of history we dislike most. Done on live TV, it would be quite exciting and would earn a lot in sponsorship.
  3. Ditch Julius  and Augustus and replace them with something nicer. My suggestion: instead of July and August have Laurel and Hardy.

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