Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Gregorian Calendar, The No 10, The No 12, The New Millennium.

I reprint this rant from my book 'Périgord Life. Je t'adore 24, encore'.

A year is based on 365.2425 days when averaged over 400 years. In pre-Gregorian days, they had failed to notice those important decimal points and over the centuries a discrepancy of 10 days had built up which needed to be corrected. In 1752, Britain jumped from the 4th directly to the 15th of October to compensate, and at the same time changed New Year’s Day from March 25th to January 1st.

Originally we had 10 months in the year, hence SEPTember, OCTOber, NOVEMber and DECEMber. Julius Caesar was the first to ostentatiously immortalise himself in calendar form; squeezing in the extra month of July. Then Augustus Caesar, not to be outdone, followed suit with August, making 12 smaller months with the Latin numerical references to 7, 8, 9, and 10 remaining.

12 is a GOOD number, it is divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6. 10 is NOT so good, being divisible only by 2 and 5. Why, therefore, is there such a concentration throughout Europe on decimalisation when we all quite happily cope with 12 months of each year? One would have thought that, by now, some overpaid number-cruncher in Brussels would have insisted that we all revert to the pre-Caesar calendar, and its 10 month year.

For many years I’ve thought in Kilometres, Centigrade, and Kilos, but I still have a nostalgic hankering for twelve pence to a shilling, buying 8 ounces of gob-stoppers at the corner shop, swallowing pints of Old Peculiar down at the ‘Horse-n-Bucket’, and measuring a cricket pitch in yards. Is this because I was born when such things were unquestioned? Or am I just being nostalgic? Twelve-ism is alive and well as far as I’m concerned, but I have reluctantly embraced the simpler, yet less user-friendly concept of ten.

In the decimal system we count from 1 to 10; to count from 0 to 9 would be folly. Yet only recently, look how many people mistakenly welcomed the new millennium on January 1st 2000 (i.e. counting from 0 to 9) instead of on ‘the first of the first of the first’ (i.e. 1 Jan 2001). Were they simply blinded by zeros? Strangely, on the change from the 19th to the 20th centuries there was no such confusion, and The Times (of London) newspaper of the day records that celebrations correctly took place on 1st Jan 1901. During the following century some of us don’t seem to have advanced that much mathematically. For me, it still wrangles that the majority of revelers acted a year too early, then sadly failed to welcome the correct ‘New Millennium’ at the start of 2001 (i.e. the first day of the first month of the year MMI). 

For anyone who's still confused 1. 1. 2000 was the first day of the last year of the 20th Century.  1. 1. 2001 was the first day of the 21st Century (i.e. the new millennium).


  1. You've really confused me now Cro...what year is it now?

    I like the idea of jumping from the 4th to the 15th. I could book jobs in and then invoice straight away, missing out the 'orrible bit!

  2. How are those bees coming along?

  3. The 365 days in a year are (supposed to be) the chronological divisions of the earth's orbit in relation to it's circumference, and could me accurately measured with the use of obelisks to test the time of year.

    When the bloody French had their revolution which began the decimalisation system, they 'measured' the distance between Paris and some other place in France and called it one degree of the earth's circumference, and then decided what a metre should be, based on their miscalculation. The old yard would vary in length depending on where you measured it (time and space being inseperable on earth), but at least it could be accurately measured and checked for weights and measures purposes.

    The French metric system is - basically - a concept, not a reality that can be double-checked with any degree of accuracy, unlike the winter and summer solstice!

  4. For someone who wallows in fabrics, beads, ribbons etc and reads low life thrillers, you've lost me.....
    Still, I'm happy in my simple little life. lol

  5. Pffhhhh! The guy that was sorting out the little critters has messed me about a bit so they've been delayed.

    Still, the 'real' work for beekeepers starts in the autumn-winter, but I'd have preferred to have given them a good start in the summer months...keep watching.

  6. Briony. No-one who lives in Brighton/Hove lives a simple life!

  7. What is all the fuss about. I just go to bed and get up the next day like I do every other day of the year.

  8. Canada switched to metric years ago but I still measure in inches/feet/yards/miles/pounds/farenheit....

  9. Like Delores, I've had to function in metric and non-metric systems (which still abound in Canada). We are constantly required to convert from kilos to pounds, kilometres to miles, yards to metres and english to french for that matter!
    This 0-9/1-10 thing has always confounded me...it's like the 1900s is the 20C...I am 58 years old, but I'm in the 59th year of my life. I understand that it is so, but it's still confusing.
    I like Rabby's solution best!

  10. Yeesh, got a headache. It is not a way to start my morning. Is today Tuesday? No, don't tell me; I am happily living in no day, no date, no time.

  11. There, there Amy - wipe your brain...

  12. i should have read my posts earlier in the day! I'm lost! ...I can only bake cakes with ounces...does that apply here?

  13. Yeah what Rabby said. As long as a pint is still a pint I am happy


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