Yesterday a friend passed along a message noting that October 1, 2010, which is today’s date, can be written as 011010. We understand the pleasantry of that faux binary notation, which more straightforwardly represents the first day of the tenth month of the year [20]10. Ah yes, octubre/October, the tenth month of the year. But wait, doesn’t octo- mean ‘eight,’ and didn’t Latin octo evolve to ocho, the Spanish word for ‘eight’? And isn’t eight, with its gh that used to be pronounced, the native English cognate of Latin octo? There’s no escaping all that eightness. So why is October the tenth month of the year? The answer is that the Roman calendar originally began with the month of March, and October was the eighth month of that year. The later addition of January and February bumped everything two months further down the line, leaving septiembre/September, octubre/October, noviembre/November, and diciembre/December etymologically untrue to their numerical names.

©2010 Steven Schwartzman


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  1. Trackback: áfido « Spanish-English Word Connections
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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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