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I’ve had a few comments about the new calendar I introduced recently. It seems it didn’t go down well with everyone, in particular, the French. Now I know you’re thinking they might have been ticked at the whole Rose and Napoleon article last week, but no. No, the French do have a good point. You see, over the years they’ve had a good try at standardizing, well, everything.

A revolutionary idea, you say? Why, yes it is. In fact their whole standardization master plan started during in the French Revolution, or as it’s often called, the Terror. The Terror was actually about a three year stretch in the middle of the revolution (the other years of the revolution being just mildly terrifying). While Robespierre and “The Committee of Public Safety” were busy chopping aristocratic heads off, impromptu mobs and other officials were drowning people, hacking monks and clergymen to death, and roasting alive anyone else they didn’t like on bonfires. A busy time, you might think, but not for the French. In the middle of all this mayhem they decided they needed to standardize such things as the weight of a loaf of bread. Really.

So it was that in 1799 the French introduced the metric system, no doubt much to the relief of bakers everywhere. It standardized mass, space, time, and loaves, but not the calendar. No, the calendar was considered far trickier. The French decided it needed a good overhaul, and so assigned a couple of mathematicians to the task. However, aware that mathematicians aren’t always the best at explaining things to the human race, they opted to balance out the nerds with (wait for it) a couple of poets. POETS? Most people understand them about as much as they do mathematicians. This makes about as much sense as ordering a side of olives with your haircut. But hey, exception française!

So, what did this wonderful pairing of pairs bring (the poets and mathematicians, not the olives and your new do)? Well, the mathematicians got stuck right in and designed things along neatly ordered lines (assuming you didn’t mind just one day off in a ten day week). Great. But then the poets got loose, and what did they come up with? A name for every day. Not just the days of the week, but each day of the year. Every single day. All 365 of them. Talk about revolutionary.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, they argued, to be able to refer to any day with a single word. Maybe, but remembering 365 days in the correct order would take up most of a 4th grade education. And in the 1800s it would have been an even harder task, most of the people that could read had been relieved of their heads. Just to add to the fun they named the days named after plants, domestic animals, and common tools and rhymed them across the seasons. I guess they were trying to relieve the monotony for those 4th graders. It’s pretty remarkable these guys didn’t end up on a bonfire.

Anyway, to explain the title of this post, my birthday is November 25th, so in the French Revolutionary Calendar, I’m a Pig. Click on the thumbnail below for a view of the full calendar and let me know how things work out for you, after all it can’t get much worse than pig…

Nigel's handy-dandy "Boring Old Calendar" to "Poetic Mathematician's French Revolutionary Calendar" Converter-ificator


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