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It's Almost February

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 1/28/21

Maybe it is time we make a correction of our calendar. The last time somebody altered the months in our calendar occurred around 713 BC when Numa Pompilius added January and February to the other 10 …

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It's Almost February

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Maybe it is time we make a correction of our calendar. The last time somebody altered the months in our calendar occurred around 713 BC when Numa Pompilius added January and February to the other 10 months.

He did that to conform to how long more accurately it takes the earth to make a lap around the Sun. He named January after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. February came from the ancient festival of Februa which was celebrated as a time for cleaning.

Speaking of cleaning, it is time we cleaned up the word February. Before we continue, please say “February” out loud. Most of us in America omit the first R in conversation.

According to Professor Artimas Wycoff of the National Institute of Pretentious Wordsmiths, two noted dictionaries, Merriam-Webster and American Heritage, recognize that pronouncing the month as “feb-you-air-ee” is common usage in the good ol' USA.

Professor Wycoff said “pronouncing the first R makes it more awkward to say February. Conversational speech encourages laziness and so the mispronunciation is quite common.” You can find his book “I Speak English Good” in the library.

So, for the rest of this column I will type the month as Febuary as an attempt to adjust our acceptance of both viewing and pronouncing the word.

By eliminating that first R, the word is shortened which is appropriate since Febuary is the shortest month of the year. Originally King Pompilius gave January and Febuary 31 days. But for some unknown reason the latter was reduced to 28, except for leap years.

Years later, an unknown astronomical zealot realized that it takes more than 365 days for the Earth to orbit the Sun. In fact, it takes an additional 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds.

Since that is almost a quarter of a day, it was decided that an additional day would be added to the calendar every four years. So, every four years we get to discuss the leap.

It really does not matter to us except, of course, if you happen to be born on Febuary 29th. In that case it matters because someone annoyingly reminds you that you get to celebrate your actual birthday only in a leap year.

The month of Febuary is not the only calendar entry that may need to be altered. Let us examine the day of the week known as Wednesday. Please say “Wednesday” out loud. For most of us the first D is silent.

Even Bill Shakespeare recognized that the pronunciation excluded that first D. He tried to work the spelling “Wensday” into his writing, but it did not stick. Maybe if the written use of Febuary catches on, we could revisit Shakespeare's idea and adopt “Wensday.”

Febuary, although usually limited to 28 days has a lot to be proud of. It is the only month to have exactly 4 weeks. It hosts many holidays and events. On the 2nd we have Groundhog Day, celebrated in a Bill Murray movie of the same name. The plot revolves around a man who repeats the same day over and over. The plot revolves around a man who repeats the same day over and over.

A few weeks after the big groundhog reveal at Gobbler's Knob in Western Pennsylvania comes Valentine's Day. It is a day to advance romance, boxes of chocolates and heart shaped greeting cards.

In 1976, Febuary was declared Black History Month. This observance has spread to Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Febuary also brings us the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington. At one time they were individual holidays. I guess other presidents felt left out. So, in 1971 the government, in the Uniform Monday Holiday act, invented President's Day giving our nation a 3-day weekend.

Many things mentioned in this column can be researched at your local library. But unlike removing the first R in February, please leave “library” alone. Pronouncing it as “li-berry” just sounds wrong.

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