Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Someday aliens will land and all will be fine until we explain our calendar (twitter.com/foone)
1514 points by thunderbong on Sept 25, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 989 comments

I didn't appreciate until recently that the calendar we live by today was personally designed by Julius Caesar.

Like not by some forgotten technocrats incidentally during his time, but Julius Caesar himself as a subject matter expert, as a side-project. With consultation, certainly, but by his initiative, from long-standing engagement with the problem in one of his early jobs from long before he was a main character of the Roman story.

Digestable and entertaining (fragment of a) video on the topic:


People mostly remember Caesar as a ruler, however in 63 BC (5 years before the Gallic wars) Caeser managed to get himself elected as Pontifex Maximus (chief high priest).

Adjusting the calendar was as part of the duties of the Pontifex Maximus. They decided public holidays and they decided whether to add an "intercalary month" (at the end of February which used to be the last month).

There are many interesting things to say about this but since this is hacker news I'm going ro focus on one:

Caesar was away campaigning a lot and the Pontifex could adjust the calendar only while physically in Rome. So many years went by without calendar fixes.

After having benefited from the confusion and the edge he had by understanding the calendar (like knowing he could safely cross the Adriatic when his opponent assumed that crossing it that given month was a bad luck) he decided to fix the calendar so that it doesn't require a human in the loop.

In a way, he automated himself out of his job.

At least a dozen engineers read this and decided to name their new microservice "Pontifex"

Completely off-topic, but someone on HN posted a theory that Caesar let himself be killed, because he was afraid that he wasn't able to keep up his stellar reputation as winning everything as he got older. Was one of the few "eye-openers" for me, since as you get older, nothing is really "new" or "interesting". If the parent post turns out to be true, it goes on that list. Will research after work.

Imagine being so powerful that your enemies await your calendar adjustments

And in that calender, February is the last month, which makes it the logical month for adjusting leap years.

It looks like there's a legend that this was the case, but January has been the first month of the year through all of recorded history, and Julius Caesar's version was no different.

EDIT: Because there's a lot of confusion in several replies I thought I'd clarify: February was the second month in Julius Caesar's calendar. Romans in the Republic describe the month as being at some point the last month in the calendar, but we don't have any direct record of that. That's what I mean when I refer to it as a legend: it's a story that later Romans tell about their distant past. It is probably accurate but the sources are too far removed from the actual event to be treated as primary sources.

This is true of Roman history in general: any story that dates back to the kings should be treated as a legend that Romans told about their past. It may have elements of the truth, but shouldn't be taken as firm fact. This particular legend has a lot of evidence going for it, but that doesn't make it inaccurate to refer to it as a legend.


As a Persian, I always found the Gregorian calendar weird. In Iran and some other countries, Jalali calendar is used which is much more straightforward:


   The Iranian calendar (also known as Persian calendar or the Jalaali Calendar) 
   is a solar calendar currently used in Iran and Afghanistan. It is 
   observation-based, rather than rule-based, beginning each year on the vernal 
   equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran.
There are 12 months. The first 6 have 31 days and the rest have 30 days, except the last month which is 29 days. Every 4 years, it's a leap year and the last month becomes also 30 days.

It's also precisely set to follow seasons. For example, the first day of Fall is actually the first day of "Mehr" (the 7th month). For some reason, the Gregorian calendar has it on Sep. 22.

> For example, the first day of Fall is actually the first day of "Mehr" (the 7th month). For some reason, the Gregorian calendar has it on Sep. 22.

That’s just a convention. In Russia we use “meteorological” convention, for example, and so each season starts on the 1st of some month (March, June, September, December). It is off from the astronomical convention by ≈20 days and it is off from reality by whatever depending on your location and your feelings on what constitutes seasons.

The Julian calendar, which the Gregorian is a revision of, was designed precisely so that societies didn't need a public servant dedicated to keeping the calendar up to date.

>For example, the first day of Fall is actually the first day of "Mehr" (the 7th month). For some reason, the Gregorian calendar has it on Sep. 22.

The particular locations of the equinoxes and solstices on the calendar isn't as important as keeping them more or less in the same places as time goes on.

Yes. My partner is Iranian and their birthday is out of sync (earlier) every leap year. We “discovered” that the one first year it happen to us when suddenly received birthday wishes by all their Iranian network the day “before” the Gregorian calendar birthday.

For what it's worth many early European cultures also considered the start of the year to be at the start of spring, generally the same idea as Nowruz, which is where we got Easter from as a conglomeration of "pagan" rituals and Christian religion. Unfortunately we ended up with this weird Dec. 31st at the end of a year in the middle of winter which doesn't make any logical sense.

There’s more similarities than just that. Iran was founded by Indo-Europeans.

Many similarities in languages too. Persian (Farsi) has the same root as some European languages (and should not be confused with Arabic, which is totally different than both).

    In Persian | In English
    mädar      | mother
    barädar    | brother
    dokhtar    | daughter
    pedar      | father
    bad        | bad

I’m familiar. It is fascinating. Same with Sanskrit. I don’t know if we’re all descended from the same people exactly, or if the Indo Europeans were just an extremely successful core group with a culture that all of us adopted as the natives wherever they spread to. But they certainly had a successful culture. Iran should really be an ally with the western democracies. Those people are actually pretty advanced and modern, considering where they are placed in the world.

I say that to my American and European friends, that Iranians have a lot more in common with them than with the rest of the middle east. There are exceptions, of course, but the general public is really well educated, open minded, and leaning towards Western values and culture.

Too bad that the country has received such a negative reputation over the past 4 decades due to its (non-Iranian) regime.

I’m American and that’s my perspective. I can’t be the only one. I never even understood why Iran and the US were at odds. Seems entirely based on politics/elites. From what I see, Iranians would be my first pick as allies in the region. We certainly chose poorly with Saudi Arabia.

Non-Western values and culture are a great portion of why we need Iran. A shelter from and an antidote to global liberal hegemony.

> It's also precisely set to follow seasons. For example, the first day of Fall is actually the first day of "Mehr" (the 7th month). For some reason, the Gregorian calendar has it on Sep. 22.

This doesn't really work; the first day of Fall differs from place to place according to the specifics of the local climate.

Why would that be considered the first day of Fall? Even taking a purely astronomical perspective, the autumnal equinox would be the center of Fall, not the beginning.

Spring and autumn start on the equinox, summer and winter on the solstices. Though it's true they tend to be called "mid summer" and "mid winter" day. It's certainly weird.

We also tend to associate summer with days getting longer and winter with days (the period between sunrise and sunset) getting shorter, but the opposite is true: in summer, which is the period from about 21 June to 23 September, days are getting shorter, whereas in winter, between 21 December and 21 March, days are getting longer. Astronomical winter starts on the shortest day, and astronomical summer on the longest day.

I guess we're just eternally confused about calendars. And who can blame us?

> Astronomical winter starts on the shortest day, and astronomical summer on the longest day.

This is a convention used only by modern calendars. Astronomers have no opinion on when particular seasons occur. They care about things like when stars rise above or sink below the horizon. But they don't use the change in the sky to determine when winter occurs. People notice that winter occurs around the same time every year, and they associate whatever the sky is doing at that time with the beginning of winter.

As you already note, the solstices are called "midsummer" and "midwinter". That is because they are traditionally identified as the middle of summer and the middle of winter. Why do you believe that they are the beginning instead?

"Believe"? It's the common definition. Belief has nothing to do with it.

That doesn't come close to being true. Compare the Cambridge dictionary's "common definition":

> [summer] the season of the year between spring and autumn when the weather is warmest, lasting from June to September north of the equator and from December to March south of the equator


> Summer is the hottest of the four temperate seasons, occurring after spring and before autumn. At or centred on the summer solstice, the earliest sunrise and latest sunset occurs, daylight hours are longest and dark hours are shortest, with day length decreasing as the season progresses after the solstice. The date of the beginning of summer varies according to climate, tradition, and culture.

> From an astronomical view, the equinoxes and solstices would be the middle of the respective seasons, but sometimes astronomical summer is defined as starting at the solstice, the time of maximal insolation, often identified with the 21st day of June or December. By solar reckoning, summer instead starts on May Day and the summer solstice is Midsummer.

It "doesn't come close to being true", so you post stuff that confirms what I said?

Only your last sentence presents an alternate definition, the rest confirms it or is close to it. And the astronomical definition is not an uncommon one.

I think you need to reread what I wrote and what you wrote.

Technically days get longer (hours of daylight) during the winter and shorter during the summer.

As a not-at-all neutral observation, you post an enormous amount, are obnoxious in your confidence, and frequently wrong.

This seems a bit mean, especially given its a pretty natural question as to why the equinox is considered start of fall instead of midautumn (in certain regions)

Edit: i take it back.

Yes, from a seasonal perspective, the timing of a season varies idiosyncratically from place to place. That was the first thing I said. Why would you then want to locate the beginning of Fall on the equinox?

Quoting from your link:

> seasonal lag is not "seasonally symmetric"; that is, the period between the winter solstice and thermal midwinter (coldest time) is not the same as between the summer solstice and thermal midsummer (hottest time).

> In mid-latitude continental climates, [seasonal lag] is approximately 20–25 days in winter and 25–35 days in summer.

> there is no meteorological reason for designating these dates as the first days of their respective seasons.

You asked why it is traditionally known as that, and i answered.

Not only did I not ask that, I don't believe that the equinox is traditionally known as the beginning of autumn. Traditional terminology always marks the solstices and equinoxes as the middle of the season in which they occur, because that is obviously the way seasons work. Compare Western European "Midsummer" [the solstice] or Chinese 立秋 ["beginning of Fall", August 8; compare to the equinox on September 23, or to the "Mid-Autumn Festival" 中秋节, fixed to the full moon, but generally around late September].

The equinoxes and the solstices are marked on modern calendars as the beginning of their respective seasons, but I have never heard anyone attempt to justify that. I tend to assume it's the result of the calendar-buying population not having any reason to care what season it currently is.

But even among modern calendar-buying people, I believe they think of big snowdrifts as something that happens in winter, not something that happens in late fall and continues through winter. And the calendar doesn't agree with that.

So is it astronomical season or weather season? Weather varies between locations.

That actually works pretty well and has worked well for thousands of years for what it was designed to do. The calendar should not necessarily follow the local climate of every region, as that can vary each year and throughout the time. They had to fix a reference point for seasons, and they have chosen the Equinox. This is a sensible reference point (see refs). But also it could be anything else as long as it's measurable and verifiable independently and does not change based on location.

The same works for the clocks. People in Sweden still use the same 24-hour clock, even though they have vastly different daylight conditions in different seasons.

The Persian calendar is actually our most precise [1] calendars to date, and it owes its precision to tying the calendar to astronomical seasons [2].

[1] https://www.timeanddate.com/date/perfect-calendar.html [2] https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/persian-calendar.html

Calendar seasons are mainly used to talk about the weather. Using Equinox as a fixed reference point is not any more precise than using meteorological convention wrt thermal seasons.

Here is what Equinox means and how it's related to weather in general https://www.weather.gov/lmk/seasons

> Using Equinox as a fixed reference point and a is not any more precise than using meteorological convention wrt thermal seasons

Well, no. What meteorological convention? That's a pretty broad term. We are talking about calendars, not a general weather forecast system, as I was comparing Persian calendar with other calendars.

With Equinox, you get a good indication of weather conditions for a wide geography while having a precise reference point to design a calendar which can be used for other equally important purposes.

P.S. While I was thinking about what you wrote, I wondered how these things were argued and arranged in ancient times and what did they think or say considering what they had to come up with affects a significant portion of the civilized world and trade between nations.


You can't really define seasons with day-precision based on weather or climate.

You can't define seasons with day precision based on anything.

1/4 of the time it takes for earth to cross a line between the sun and a particular feature of the CMB, granted the CMB feature would be arbitrary

That would not match anyone's idea of what a season was. For example, it makes it impossible to say "as you go farther north, the winter gets longer and the summer gets shorter".

> but January has been the first month of the year through all of recorded history

Are you kidding? Not only are September through December literally named "Month 7" through "Month 10", but the year began in late March as recently as AD 1751. That is not a period where we're suffering from a lack of recorded history.

True enough, my mistake! I was only looking at the Roman time period and didn't realize that the calendar shifted back to starting in March during the Christian era. That's really interesting to learn!

My main point is still the same: Caesar's calendar started in January and he was following the order that was current in his day. We do not know when the switch from March to January occurred. There are multiple stories about the switch (the supposed dates range from 750 BC to 153 BC), and there are legends of a 10-month calendar that didn't include January and February at all, but there are no extant contemporary records describing the switch.

The legends about the 10 month calendar are almost certainly a very late invention, which appeared as an attempt to explain why e.g. December is the 12th month.

It is likely that at its conception all the months of the Roman calendar were numbered, but some time later the months January to June were given names corresponding to important religious festivals, which were scheduled during those months.

> but there are no extant contemporary records describing the switch.

We have something of a philosophical disagreement; I would argue that the names of the months themselves constitute a contemporary record describing the switch. It doesn't tell us when the switch occurred, but it tells us very clearly that the switch occurred.

It is true that the record might be accidentally or deliberately falsified; perhaps the months were originally named after unrelated concepts and the names got revised into their numerical forms over time. But a formal history suffers from exactly the same problem, and it still gets to be called a "record"; I don't see why we would consider the fact that our ninth month is named "Month Seven" not to be a record of a shift in the beginning of the year [or rather, in the beginning of the sequence of months].

September through December being months 7 to 10 are because Julius Caesar (July) and Augustus Caesar (August) added months named after themselves after they were named.

No, that never happened. They renamed the existing months "5" and "6".

Huh, TIL

That article says "it is unclear when the Romans reset the course of the year so that January and February came first", but doesn't actually deny that the year formerly ended with February.

See for example p.187 of https://ryanfb.github.io/loebolus-data/L333.pdf for a 1st century BC reference to it:

> The Terminalia 'Festival of Terminus,' because this day is set as the last day of the year; for the twelfth month was February, and when the extra month is inserted the last five days are taken off the twelfth month.

To be clear, I'm not denying that it was the first month at some point. It wasn't when Caesar designed his calendar, and we don't have a record of it changing. I refer to it as a legend not to indicate that it isn't true but to indicate that the only sources we have are referring to it as changing sometime in the distant past.

It is very likely that at its origin the Roman year started on the spring equinox.

That is why March was the first month and February was the last Month.

However, the astronomical rule was not followed later, and due to the inconsistent length of the year the position of the spring equinox had drifted from the 1st of March to around the 25th of March by the time of Julius Caesar.

The present position of the spring equinox around the 20th of March does not correspond to its position at the introduction of the Julian calendar, but to its position around the time of the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325).

No it hasn't. Your link even points out that Jan and Feb were added to a 10 month calendar starting with March. Moreover, various cultures notionally observing the Julian calendar have assigned varying dates to the start of the year throughout history.

It says that later Romans said that they started with the 10-month calendar and that the second king added 2 months, and that at some point those two months migrated to the front.

The context that I did not include in my original comment and should have is that everything from Rome in the time of the kings is considered to be legend. There are likely things that are rooted in fact, and this story has strong evidence for it, but the number and order of months has not changed in recorded Roman history, we only have indications from later Romans that they believed it changed at some point in the past.

My main point was that Caesar did not have February as the last month, he used the same order as his contemporaries and as we do.

That article seems to state the opposite?

> In the oldest Roman calendar, which the Romans believed to have been instituted by their legendary founder Romulus, March was the first month, and the calendar year had only ten months in all. Ianuarius and Februarius were supposed to have been added by Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, originally at the end of the year. It is unclear when the Romans reset the course of the year so that January and February came first.

Most of what we know about pre-republican Rome is from oral tradition, not actual records. So if by the time of the Republic February was the second month of the year, it was the second month of the year through all of recorded Roman history.

Maybe Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December were the seventh, eight, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth months of the year through all of the “recorded Roman history”. But it seems well accepted that they were once the fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ninth and tenth months of the year.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have referred to it as a legend. That seems to have negative connotations for most people that I didn't mean to convey.

I really don't doubt the authenticity of the story, I mainly was trying to indicate that we don't know when the change occurred but it certainly happened a long time before Caesar: by his day, the change was an oral tradition whose full story was lost in the very distant past.

>That seems to have negative connotations for most people that I didn't mean to convey.

Not just "for most". It has negative connotations (of the kind reffered to here) for all people.

"Legend" connotes "didn't take place".

A legend is a traditional story sometimes regarded as historical but isn't authenticated. You are saying that a legend is a story that is believed to be false. That is exactly opposite from the meaning of the word and is NOT something believed by "all people."

I'm a person, and legend does not have that connotation for me, it means "it was only handed down orally so we can't be sure". I'm sure my idiolect is unusual in that regard, but I stand by my "for most people".

And likewise, September is the 7th month, October the 8th, etc etc

> the calendar we live by today was personally designed by Julius Caesar

Pope Gregory has entered the chat

there have been some changes to the calendar since Caesar, especially when people went to bed Thursday 4 October 1582 and woke up on Friday 15 October 1582, and thereafter there were no more leap years on centuries except every 400 years.


One fun historical tidbit is that St Teresa of Ávila died on the night of the 4th to the 15th of October, 1582.

He didn't just throw dice or march in, see what's what and grab the locals by the nadgers.

JC was quite a chap and of course why its called the Julian Calendar. Many other calendars are available. Kalends is the source of the name for calendar and the Roman day of month counting is pretty involved - http://www.polysyllabic.com/?q=calhistory/earlier/roman/kale... Kalends, nones and ides.

JS died on the ides of March ...

JS died how?

Et tu Brute? He was murdered in the Senate.

The cut and thrust of political discussion was rather more forthright back then.

To be fair, we've chopped off the heads of King Charles hereabouts. I'm sure III has nothing to worry about.


Typo, it's JC

Ah, the one the epoch is based on?

I thought that was Linus Torvalds.

I’m unsure how commonly known this is, but also note that July and August are named after Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus

If Caesar designed the calendar, how did he get a month in there named after something that hadn’t happened yet? When Caesar died Augustus’ name was Octavian, and Rome hadn’t had an emperor yet…

At the time of the calendar reform, the months that are now called July and August were called Quintilis and Sextilis. The Julian calendar came into use on January 1, 45 BC. July was renamed in 44 BC (the year of Caesar’s assassination), and August in 8 BC.

Are you messing around?

Octavius became Julius Caesar after he was adopted. And also later he was given the honorable designation by the senate and called Augustus. That’s not his name its one of his honors.

Octavian is essentially a past tense of his name and he never truly went by that. It’s a name used by historians.

> Octavius became Julius Caesar after he was adopted.

Gaius Julius Caesar

Designing the calendar does mean "give a name to every month forever".

You could also (a) just design the mechanics of the calendars (leap days, duration of months, etc), but keep the month names the same, or (b) change names too, which could get renamed again later.

Well worth the watch, also shows that Ceasar's main character arc was bossted by his calendar knowledge and authority.

I find the implication that aliens are rational and have no subrational concepts due to tradition and habit interesting, as it sort of implies that these kinds of outgrowths are not necessary and can just be done away with. The narrator starts from a position of not wanting to legitimize or historicize beyond reductive statements like "some ancient civilization did XYZ". I'll admit that I skimmed through the last part of the thread, so I might have missed something, but I don't see any mention of the decimal calendar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Republican_calendar, or why that failed. I get that this is supposed to be funny, but the indirect message of getting rid of whatever doesn't make conscious sense is simplistic, and spoils the fun for me. Humans are stupid, very funny.

The thing that would've brought it around for me is a punchline where the alien says something like "wow, your system is so clean and simple compared to ours".

I do think there's a certain degree of humor when looking back at history. There are plenty of things to laugh at in hindsight. But the thing that rubs me wrong is the undertone that this is somehow a distinctly human trait or inherently a bad thing. That somehow only humanity is subject to the impact of evolution and gradual learning over time.

And to those complaining that we should just have fun with this, I get it. There's some funny stuff in there. But that shouldn't absolve the thread of criticism. It's fair to point out that it's a pretty reductionist take when combined with the implication that humans are uniquely stupid. It's an easy problem to solve with a very slight reframing. $0.02.

> But the thing that rubs me wrong is the undertone that this is somehow some distinctly human trait. That somehow only humanity is subject to the impact of evolution and gradual learning over time.

Well, to be fair, we really don't know that - we don't have another advanced civilization to compare us to.

But I fully agree, our system might have some legacy cruft, but it works surprisingly well. Joel Spolkys wise words on rewrites also apply to our calendar.

There's also a bunch of less subtle assumptions, like the obviousness of base 10. That comes from us having ten fingers, right? It's easy to imagine aliens having six fingers on each hand and then assuming that base 12 is the most obvious and logical base to use for everything.

There's no reason to suppose that an intelligent alien race would find it convenient to count things in base that matches the number of "fingers" they have, if they even have such a thing.

Whales aren't far from being intelligent enough to form a technical civilization, but their body plan makes it unlikely that they'd use their "fingers" (or fins) to count, or to communicate with other whales.

Even if you gave an alien two human hands and knew that their counting system's base was derived from physical features of their "hands" it's not obvious that they'd come up with either base-5 or base-10 if they where starting from first principles.

We have 3 joints that make up our fingers, but the "base 10" assumes we only use one of those. It's not obvious that even a close relative to humans wouldn't come up with base-20 or base-30 just from counting using their fingers.

If you straighten or bend your wrist to add an "extra" finger for counting you're now counting in base-6 on one hand, base-12 on both. Do the same with your elbow joint and you're base-7 and base-14, respectively.

I think the reason whole fingers was picked over joints or phalanges is because when humans started counting stuff the probability of someone having missing a whole finger or two was higher than now (The life of a hunter-gatherer, accidents happen). When you are missing a finger you can still use your "stumps" to count in base-10, but your ability to count using joints or phalanges is impaired.

Yes, all granted, but I think the point is that without fingers tool use is hard, without tool use flying to other planets is hard, and we selected base 10 as the default despite its disadvantages, primarily because of our biology (unless there's some other advantage to base 10 I'm missing?).

To assume aliens wouldn't have fingers or do the same thing seems like the odd assumption. Whales are nowhere even close to creating technical civilization, that's really left field. Dolphins at least occasionally do use tools, I think, but without fingers they have to use their nose for everything and it really limits them.

Without fingers to manipulate ones environment, it would be incredibly difficult to develop any sort of technology.

Not even humans always chose the exact mechanism current day westerners are familiar with: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finger-counting

Their calendar could be updated for interplanetary use.

At the end of the story they isolate us from them and prevent us from reaching the stars, I don't think the implication is that this is just due to the weird calendar system. I think its more than that, our inability to rid ourselves from our tradition and religious heritage has more profound implications. We don't look at things rationally and make decisions to improve ourselves. The aliens may have gone through similar steps in their evolution of their civilization so they probably know what it *means* if a post-interstellar species still uses a gods birthday to count time.

We aren't making any collective rational decisions yet, we build elaborate structures around tradition that more or less managed to reduce our collective human suffering at least in the northern hemisphere. It took us hundreds of years to rid ourselves from slavery and it will probably take us hundreds more to figure out that murdering billions of animals is bad for example. We might never figure out how to prevent poverty, inequality, racism, imperialism, colonialism and war. We probably make earth uninhabitable way before then anyhow.

I can see why aliens want to isolate and not want to talk to us. Not because of the calendar system we use, but because of what it represents.

> The aliens may have gone through similar steps in their evolution of their civilization so they probably know what it means if a post-interstellar species still uses a gods birthday to count time.

Or they might feel that using merely having gods is an obvious sign that we are unsuitable to be included in galactic community.


> I get that this is supposed to be funny, but the indirect message of getting rid of whatever doesn't make conscious sense is simplistic, and spoils the fun for me.

Do you also hate every story ever told? The point of a story is to say what matters.

> Humans are stupid, very funny.

It is funny. You should try laughing at how dumb we are. It's fun.

HN users really love to congratulate themselves for being such high IQ contrarians. Here, I'll snarkily summarize your message for you just as you did the twitter thread: let me explain this joke to you, but in a way that shows why I'm too smart to enjoy it.

> Do you also hate every story ever told?

I don't get why this should apply to every story.

> It is funny. You should try laughing at how dumb we are. It's fun.

Individual humans are stupid, probably most of the time, I don't disagree. But what this reminds me of is when people imagine stone age people as "ooga booga"-idiots, instead of human beings that might have not had access to the same technology and intellectual concepts that we can rightfully feel superior about. And as the narrator is implicitly taking sides with the alien, he too is looking down at us backward humans.

I don't know if you have ever met people who hate humanity and try to disassociate themselves the rest. They refer to us as "Humanoids" as if automata that they as superior being have the right to use and manipulate. It is a vibe similiar to this that I picked up, that I object to.

> It is funny. You should try laughing at how dumb we are. It's fun.

But are we dumb or is this just a reductionist take at something that actually has some reason behind it?

Things simply stop being funny if you feel like important background is missing, no snobbery needed.

People that are too dumb to understand satire while pointing out why it's satire are indeed dumb, and should laugh at their own stupidity. But people on HN care more about being smart than self-aware, which is why this site is full of the funniest comments. He may as well be arguing about why eating babies is a bad idea after reading A Modest Proposal.

> subrational concepts

More like vestigial organs that our society isn't capable enough to excise.

I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not society is capable. If we had to, we’d find a way to switch calendaring systems.

It’s more about pragmatism and priority. The world is filled with big problems that require global collaboration.

Collaboration on such a scale is hard. That we don’t spend time revamping a working system while other systems crumble and burn is arguably a good thing. It means we’re still at least aware of what matters.

There is nothing vestigial about time tracking. You can argue that the names of things are no longer useful, but at that point it’s time to throw out much of our language.

Yeah, often people leap to "aliens" being some higher intelligence than us who will judge our poor sub-optimal decisions. Though to me it seems more likely that any life we encounter is more likely to be less intelligent, if intelligent at all.

It's worse. "Aliens have the same taste in things as me". With the implications being something like "Aliens are super intelligent" and "I am super intelligent".

IAmVerySmart vibes

Aliens with the ability to visit earth will be much more intelligent than humans.

Except that being farther along the tech tree doesn't imply greater intelligence any more than possessing a car implies greater intelligence than an ancient Roman.

The alien that made the space ship will be smarter, the alien that arrives in the space ship might be less smart than us.

If Aliens find us, it seems reasonable they would be smarter/more advanced.

But would you say the same about humanity if we stumbled across an alien culture and were somehow able to communicate with them?

Unless we find some microbes in our little solar system, I highly doubt this. Any civilization able to get to earth is likely to be at least an order of magnitude more intelligent than us.

I'm also not a fan of the "alien-who-is-really-the-writer has an objectively superior and judgmental perspective" genre, even when it's trying to be funny. Some movies: K-PAX was one, Powder, another.

It's just a rhetorical mechanism to deliver critique in a format that is entertaining and not too dry.

It's invariably too "on the nose" for my tastes

This gets even more complicated when you introduce dealing with foreign countries that actually don't follow the western calendar system. Such as the standard Persian calendar months and years. Also, did you know that the arabic Islamic calendar dates and the persian calendar dates don't agree? Because the traditional calendar dating back to the maximum geograhpical extent of the Persian empire is solar based, while the standard Islamic calendar is entirely lunar based.

And the persian calendar is solar based and the year resets on Nowruz (new years day) around the spring equinox, but the practiced holidays are based on the lunar islamic months? But also some holidays like Nowruz are observed based on the solar date.

This means you've got Nowruz occuring on approximately the same time in the weather season every year, while relative to the western calendar, notable holidays like Eid al-fitr and Eid al-adha and the start of Ramadan etc move backwards in calendar date approxiamtely 10 or 11 days per year. Some years Ramadan might occur in the middle of winter and much later on it will be in the middle of summer.

This series of tweets doesn't even begin to get into the possible opportunities for confusion when working between three different calendar systems... And western countries where the standard work week is M-F but others where Friday is the day of rest and people work on a 6-day work week on a persian or arabic islamic calendar, but some companies give their employees a two day weekend so they're off on Friday and Saturday, but the local timezone equivalent of Sunday is definitely a normal workday... I could go on.

mmmm wait until you know that Persians' extra day off is not Saturday, it's Thursday.

Also that in Muslim countries that take Sat and Sun off, they all leave at Friday noon to attend the Friday prayer.

Now what if you have a Persian embassy in a foreign country (they are at the verge of extinction though), it will be closed on Friday, Sat, and Sun!, plus all the holidays of Iran and the host country. They almost never work (This sentence was not only about their days off)

If you have a company that has a branch in Iran, no luck for remote meetings on Thursdays all the way to Sundays!

The Qeng Ho in Deepness in the Sky had the right idea. They traveled from planet to planet in STL ships, and counted time purely in seconds. They had to account for relativity, but nothing else.

A short task might take a kilosecond (about 16 minutes), a watch schedule might plan for activities covering a megasecond (close enough to a month for you and me), while a gigasecond is a good chunk of your life (32 years).

"Calendar frippery" was left entirely to the civilations they visited. Since individual civilizations rarely lasted long enough to see repeat visits from the same ship, it wasn't important for the traders to learn the local calendar in any detail. One of the characters opines that you know you have stayed in port too long when your crew start using the local calendar.

Except it would be absolutely impractical to actually use in practice by any species/societies that have to sleep on a regular basis and in general need cycles. If all your "natural cycles" happen to fit well into base-10, well, that's great. Otherwise, you need to base your cycles on something else, which is exactly what calendars do.

And, just by the way, the Gregorian calendar is bad and messy, but the ideas it's built upon are absolutely great and are not results of shower-thinking and twitter-shitposting, but arise from pure practicality. They suit Earth, and humans are earthlings, their cycles are defined by the Earth. A year is a crucial cycle, because it defines weather so much. A day is a crucial cycle, because it defines when it's dark outside. A lunar month is a natural and pretty good cycle, because Moon cycles do actually affect life on Earth, but it isn't crucial, which is exactly the reason, why Gregorian calendar happens to get away with pretty much ignoring this one, unlike a day and a year. Still, it explains why most calendars through history prefer months being close to 27.3 days, and why weeks are 7 days (a quarter of 28). Both cycles also are both long enough and short enough to be useful for practical reasons, like organizing work schedules even without relying on celestial bodies. Furthermore, it even appears they are not enough, which is why the year is divided into "quarters" for business purposes like accounting. And these happen to be fairly close to 30 days, which happens to be a very neat divider of 360, which is close enough to a year on the one side, and a very neat number that naturally divides all small numbers up to 6 on the other side, which makes it easy to work with (unlike base-10, BTW, since that cannot be divided by 3).

All of which explains, why French Republican calendar is actually a great idea and unfortunately failed (for a fairly stupid reason, IMO), and base-10 day is not so great (although it has merit, since modern digits are base-10) and naturally failed.

Now, these totally imaginary and having nothing to do with reality aliens of yours may not have earth-like and human-like cycles, but they surely have cycles of their own. So it is unlikely that magnitude-1000 time measurement with no cycles in-between can work for them either.

> So it is unlikely that magnitude-1000 time measurement with no cycles in-between can work for them either.

Oh, maybe I didn’t describe it very well. They use precise scheduling whenever possible, and use kiloseconds and megaseconds in casual conversation. For example, you might be scheduled to go on–shift at 1664204400, and every shift is 30 kiloseconds, meaning you go off–shift at 1664234400. Of course the book never gave exact timestamps like that, it only discussed shifts and watches in general terms.

In casual conversation they use “kiloseconds” or “thousand seconds” the same way we use phrases like “half an hour”. For example: “We got the same scut-work shift starting in two thousand seconds. I thought we could go down to the bactry together, trade gossip.” They also use shorter approximations, like “hundred seconds” the way we might use minutes: ‘In his huds, he could see his ships climbing slowly up the sky, still hidden from the naked eye by the nearest tenement. “Another four hundred seconds sir, and you’ll see them come out past the roof just about there.” He pointed at the spot.’

They just don’t have a calendar based on astronomical cycles. When your STL ship needs 400 years to complete a single journey, and each crewmember spends a very small percentage of that time awake and on watch, you don’t need to care about cycles or calendars. And since each of the hundreds of star system that humans have colonized has a completely different calendar based on whatever astronomical cycles are available locally, so Earth’s calendar just doesn’t matter very much.

100 ksecs works out to roughly 27 hours. That's a bit long for a day, but probably not too infeasible to adapt to.

It's not about the length. It might be a perfect day for them, it's not the point. It's about the fact that you have to use 100 ksec instead of a "day". "Each day" is not the same thing as "each 100 ksecs", since the latter has much more implicit precision. So, practically speaking, your either have a concept of 1-day cycle (because of sleep, sun, or whatever — doesn't matter why they need it and how long must it be for their purposes), or you are stuck with thinking in Unix-time. And if it isn't bad enough for you to fill your calendar in unix-time without "days" or "months" (I can actually believe you might get used to it, somewhat) it makes organisation-level planning and communication hell, if not impossible.

Heck, let's even assume their comfortable "day" cycle is 1ks (after all, they had to chose the length of their second based on something". It still means that their next comfortable MUST be EXACTLY 1 Ms (in their numeric system) to be able to use it as a cycle. If it's off even by 0.1 s, it still will get unusable for thinking and planning sooner or later.

So, yeah, long story short: just think about having all your schedules (like work shifts, payday, train schedules, everything) in Unix-time. I guess this is enough of a clue to arrive by yourself to the conclusion, that calendars (any calendar, that is — not necessarily Gregorian one) are not some "silly tradition of ours", but a really, really useful invention, which is almost for sure a necessity for any civilization, even if it isn't bound to an earth with yearly weather-cycles.

The only way this could work out is if ALL their cycles happen to fit PERFECTLY to orders (degrees) of some number — then they could choose the length of 1 second and their numeric system base accordingly, and I can imagine it being somewhat usable without introducing explicit cycles. But to happen it must be one Math-Wonderland of a Universe they live in. I don't even dare to say it's "implausible". It's... ridiculous.

It’s so ridiculous that you have invented something completely unlike what is in the book. They don’t try to force anything to line up to powers of ten, they haven’t changed the length of the second, and they have wearable computers to eliminate any and all annoyances associated with communicating long timestamps.

Although the book only hints at how things are implemented, the result is apparently really flexible. They regularly schedule things that will happen far in the future. Since they make liberal use of suspended animation, their plans need to cover very long periods of time at varying levels of precision. Most of the events of the book take place over approximately a gigasecond (with the average character being awake less than a quarter of that), but the prolog takes place several centuries earlier, and the backstory of one of the main characters covers at least several millenia.

I had to invent it to imagine some (however far-fetched) conditions under which it would be usable. But it isn't, because these conditions are not practically possible. It's just stupid (as it often happens to be with sci-fi). It is just living without the calendar, that's all that it is. And calendar is a useful invention, basically a necessity for any society out of stone age.

Sure, you can just set up a timer which would alert you at some arbitrary moment in the future that it is time to do something. It's how computers do it (if we forget about leap seconds and such). But the point of the calendar and the clock with sane time units (like a minute and an hour) is to keep the frequency and time of your dentist appointments, train schedules and vacations somewhat workable in your head. Which would be much less fun to do in Unix-time.

I don’t find it hard to imagine living without a calendar, or with an arbitrary calendar whose divisions are entirely within my control.

In fact, while it might be a strain to keep everything straight in my head without a traditional calendar, it wouldn’t be difficult using pen and paper. One use for a paper calendar is to record distant future events such as dentist appointments, and I don’t see how that would be harder on a linear timeline instead of a grid of days.

Naturally I have used scheduling software to arrange meetings, and I can imagine how it would work when you don’t have a fixed calendar.

But perhaps I have an unfair advantage. Due to a minor sleep disorder, I have a 25–hour day; I sleep for 8 hours and remain awake for 17. This means that my sleep cycle is never in sync with anyone else, and the limitations of our calendaring software have always been pretty obvious to me. You can imagine the annoyance that dentist appointments cause me, since I never know if I’ll be awake during the day when I am scheduling one. Paper calendars have very limited utility for me.

What about adding a recurring 8 hour calendar block that comes every 17 hours? Then you have a graphical representation of your sleep across time that allows you to fit appointments in.

If you can't program it, and the software makes this hard to do, you can use Amazon Turk or something.

Wow, that would be a depressing job to get on Amazon Turk :)

I’m sure there is an API that I could use to add appointments, or I suppose could make an ical file and import it. I don’t quite have enough dentist appointments to make it worth while though. I did however spend an hour to make a spreadsheet. It only predicts my schedule for the next couple of weeks, but historically that’s been good enough for my colleagues.

ah yes, "seconds", the "second minúte part of an hour", i.e. 1/60th of 1/60th of 1/24th of the average time it takes the Earth to rotate towards Sol. very sensible default.

No, they obviously use the modern definition based on cesium clocks, or some equivalent. In fact, they set up long–term interplanetary communication systems so that any civilization which had fallen and rediscovered radio could learn their language and units, so customer civilizations mostly used the same definition of a second even though their day/night cycle might be completely different.

Personally I vote for a new unity as a measure of time, the 10+e7 part of the speed of light, so the equivalent to 2.99792458 seconds, it's a sensible default in my opinion, perhaps also another new unity that is the third of that one, it would be very close to a second (in case the space travelers have practical applications to have such measure of time)

How does this work? To get duration from speed, you also need to designate a distance, don't you? What is special about 898,755 km?

At this point I'll note the watering hole frequency is about 20 cm, giving a conveniently big distance unit without additional parameters. If other, alien species aren't using it already, they'll be jealous enough to switch.

Or we could just redefine c to be 300,000m/s.

that would require redefining of the metre.

Only by a little bit. Most people wouldn’t notice.

10 hours in a day, 100 minutes in an hour, 100 seconds in a minute.

With that division, seconds would be 0.84 the length of current seconds.

But, one second is exactly 10 alpha cycles in the brain (10 hz), which is the most dominant electrical cycle. So, maybe seconds are biologically sensible. In that case, we need to build a system that connects the rhythms of our biology to the rhythms of our planetary motion. Oh…

Don’t forget to point out the absurd arbitrariness the kilo part. Base ten number systems are just as arbitrary as the rest of this stuff we’re mocking.

"Kilo-" as a prefix just means thousand, derived from Greek.

Doesn’t seem arbitrary to me. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Of course, all number systems are arbitrary in a sense.

One thousand is an arbitrary number, and apart from its special place in our base 10 number system is no more special than, say, nine hundred ninety-nine.

I bet that humans at some point will discover thats actually false in the sense that the base 10 system is not completely arbitrary, and brains had an easier time evolving using the base 10 number systems (than say, base 7), and just like electricity flows through the path of least resistence even in other galaxies the same happens with how some areas of the brain evolve, that regardless of their origin they tend to use the base 10 system as well, with some minor differences.

I would be willing to bet that some bases are easier than others, with primes being basically impossible, but not that 10 is inherently easier than 8 or 12.

I bet having 10 fingers makes base 10 slightly easier to understand at early ages than 8 or 12 (specially 12 and anything else greater than 10)

Yea, but fingers and brains are not strongly correlated. An evolving alien sentience could end up with just about any number of fingers, but most life on Earth has some form of symmetry or other making even numbers more likely. Thus I a can imagine that if we canvassed the entire galactic population, every civilization would use even bases, but there would be no clear bias to 10 in particular. Perhaps a bias away from really large bases, but not one that is in favor of 10 specifically.

I would not discard so easily that brains and fingers are not correlated, I know corvids, dolphins and other species show some level of intelligence but it's nowhere near humans so they are not in the same category to draw conclusions, so the only sample we have is humans, so until we have another sample I wouldn't make any affirmation one way or the other; also we know our advanced tool usage was not only develop due better brains but also due having opposable thumbs.

> "At the start of the year?"

> "nah. The end of the second month"


Because leap day is at the end of the year, but at some time we moved the start of the year two months back (same reason why September through December now are the ninth through twelfth month of the year, not the seventh through tenth)

(Historically, I think it was slightly different. February, the last month of the year was shorter because the year isn’t long enough to give it 30 days, then we moved the start of the year, and then we invented the Gregorian calendar, and picked February for the leap day because it already was an outlier)

It was the Romans who inserted a leap month inside February between the 23rd and 24th. Since the two consuls ruled on alternating months, adding an extra month after February would give one consul one more ruling month, making it somewhat unfair. Since leap years were handled irregularly back then, they were leap months, not leap days.

The Julian calendar introduced the leap day instead, and maintained it in February as originally, and introduced it every 4 years (except years dividable by 100).

This is also around the same time that July and August were named to their current names (named after Caesar and Augustus). Before that, they had had names equal to fifth and sixth month, respectively, like September comes from seventh.

I recently read that the reason February has only 28 or 29 days, and not 29 or 39, as you'd expect, is because Augustus wanted his month to have just as many days as Julius' month.

No idea if that's true, but sounds appropriate for the ego of an emperor.

The Julian calendar didn't have the divisible-by-100 rule, every other fourth year was leap.

>Before that, they had had names equal to fifth and sixth month, respectively, like September comes from seventh.

Now, do i google, duckduckgo, or bing, what those months were called?

Fifth collumism? Sexism?

Quintilis and Sextilis are their names.

Julius and Augustus you mean, both were Caesars (Augustus, AKA Octavian, was adopted).

Are you suggesting that the men were known as Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar? Because that's wrong[0]. Augustus used this name and it became a title for roman Emperors, in reference to Julius Caesar. If people are talking about Caesar, they mean Julius Caesar.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus#Name

I understand that people often refer to Julius Caesar as "Caesar", but to me at least, it mainly refers to the "title" (though that remains a surname, as succession was hereditary, mostly through adoption).

History is not my field, I am probably making multiple mistakes and oversimplifying, but I don't see something in that link that disproves what I said. Today, we often refer to Augustus as Augustus Caesar or Caesar Augustus (less frequently, Emperor Augustus). I also think it's interesting to point out Julius's first name in light of the previous discussion, as that's where the month name comes from.

If we're splitting hair, Octavian was adopted into the gens Julia, so he was a Julius as much as he was a Caesar, and his full name before ascending to emperor was Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.

February, the last month of the year was shorter because the year isn’t long enough to give it 30 days

Originally February had 30 days, along with all the other months. (The 5 or 6 remaining days at various times were either extra days which didn't belong to a month or were omitted until there was a month's worth of them to catch up on.)

February got shorter because (being the last month of the year) it had days removed in order to add them to other months -- what was originally February 30th (the end of the year) became February 23rd (the end of the year, after which the leap day is inserted).

The Ethiopian calendar still do this, 12 months of 30 days each and a last 5 to 6 "month".

The reddit thread is funny but it also forget than there is not only one calendar in the actual world... Long time ago, i have meet an indian who was never able to explain to me witch days he was forbidden to eat meat (he was not a strict vegetarian), or even food at all. It was probably a mix of one of the indian calendars, horoscope and religion.

My understanding is that the Ethiopian calendar is basically the ancient Egyptian calendar aside from some names changing.

Augustus and Julius stole a day from February so theirs' would be long ones.

February had 28 days before Julius Caesar came to power, so he and his successor couldn't have stolen a day from it.

Wait. The calendar was 10 months before Julius. Not sure there was even a February?

No, the calendar had 12 months + 1 intercalary month before the Julian reforms. The calendar you're thinking of was the one supposedly introduced by Romulus and replaced by his successor--there's no evidence of its actual use.

> Because leap day is at the end of the year, but at some time we moved the start of the year two months back (same reason why September through December now are the ninth through twelfth month of the year, not the seventh through tenth)

There is actually no hard evidence that the Romans ever started their calendar in March instead of January. The earliest contemporaneous use of the calendar relies on January 1 as the start of the year, short February, and with intercalation happening after (or maybe within) February.

The primary evidence we use to indicate that the start of the year shifted is... the apparently wrong month names. Some writers did describe a calendar that starts at March and ends in December, with winter basically having no proper calendar--but these are writers describing how their calendar worked several centuries ago, attributing it to mythological figures, and the explanation strikes me as very heavily a "just so" explanation.

If you want my hypothesis, the Roman civil year never started in March. But March would have had some amount of primacy, as it indicates the start of the planting year. Shenanigans in the calendar would have occurred in February to ensure that the equinox is properly timed to happen in March. But the civil year would have started closer to the beginning of winter for other reasons (perhaps taxation? but finding this level of granularity of information on Roman taxation is difficult).

In this hypothesis, the month names were not incorrect because they were never intended to count from the beginning of the year. Note that the first 6 months of the civil year have names, while the last 6 are merely numbered. It makes no sense to me that you'd make up special names for the first 4 and the last 2 months of the year, while skipping everything in the middle.

He didn't mention LEAP-SECONDS which are at THE END OF THE YEAR.

or june 30th

Indeed. See https://www.nist.gov/pml/time-and-frequency-division/leap-se...

And they always are end of June or December in UTC time, so locally they can happen on the first of January or first or July.

Couldn't this whole thread just be condensed to: we have a thing called culture which is not completely rational or efficient? I'm sure the aliens would get that - they would probably have something similar, albeit with different irrationalities and inefficiencies.

You don't even have to introduce culture. "We built a simple time system a long time ago. Some of its initial assumptions were wrong and we've been patching it up as we go ever since". I'm sure the aliens have a word for "technical debt".

Also, dividing the day into 24hs is kind of genius. Sure, 10 is nice, but good luck dividing it neatly into 3 parts.

It's a shame though that a circle is not 24° (or 240°) instead of 360°. Having °'" match h'" would have been cool.

The 360 probably came from an approximation of the number of days in a year.

That would be significantly less funny and interesting.

It would be exactly as funny and exactly as interesting, which is to say: not very.

This is right up there with noticing that sometimes the "b" in certain English words is completely silent! Haha isn't that totally irrational and crazy you guys??

Well, there are some languages that semi-regularly update their orthographies to better match their pronunciations.

And yes, the grammarians arbitrarily inserting random silent letter into middle of the words so those look more regular or match the (supposed) etymologies are annoying. English "doubt" never historically had "b" inside it either written or spoken: it was "dout", and it was pronounced like this. Same happened to French "doigt" — it used to be "doit" for as long as language itself was called French, but then some Latin-loving guy decided to stick "g" in so that it would be more obvious that the word descended from Latin "digitus".

I didn't find it particularly funny either. It's mostly predicated on this belief that somehow we "should" have optimized our date and time system and that it's silly that we're using an inconsistent, legacy system formed for many cultural reasons.

My analogy is that it's like writing a tweetstorm about how aliens landed on Earth to find that humans use different languages! And different writing systems! How quaint!

How I would have ended would be with the aliens saying we should just adopt galactic standard time because it is so much easier, but in fact it is twice as complicated and confusing, but they are used to it so it appears simple. Still funny better message.

Parts of it yes. The day/month/year thing though is fundamenally based on astronomical observations that dont fit into each other with fractions (rotation of earth around sun, orbit of moon around earth, orbit of earth around sun) which is kind of missed here.

yes, but then it'd be dull and not funny. the whole USP of Foone is that they explain things in a fun and engaging way.

"But enough about our calendar, let's hear about yours"

"Well, due to what makes a planet habitable, you won't be surprised that our planets year and day isn't incredibly different from yours..."

"But it took you millions of years to get here, why is your calendar based on a place you haven't been to in so long?"

"Well our species lifespan is about 100 years, so, actually, I was never there"

"But I guess you use that calendar to communicate back home?"

"Well, actually, the planet was swallowed by the star during its first red giant phase..."

"So your clock and calendar is based on a planet your separated from by generations, and which doesn't even exist anymore?"

"It does seem silly when you put it like that..."

"But it must be tiring writing out several digits for the year..."

"Oh, we solved that problem, we generally just write the last few digits, and it only becomes a problem every few generations"

"Cool, we just got rid of a system like that, but I'm sure it'll come back soon. Changing the subject, why do you have so many different computers?"

"Well, this is going to seem a bit silly, but we started using quantum computers a long time ago. Since there were 7 quantum states, each manufacturer had its own idea of which state should come first in memory."

Me: pats alien on back, "Dude, I feel you."

Definitely the best comment I read on this thread.

Not sure if this was the intention, but I read it as both recognizing the original post as funny, and yet recognizing that we (as in humanity) aren't "stupid" for having this complex system, but that's just how things develop.

Having both views live together is the best take on this.

So, for comparison - in Poland we use

- 24 hour clock

- days of the week are called "after not working day", "second day", "middle day", "fourth day", "fifth day", "sabbath", "not working day"

- months are mostly named from the agricultural/weather phenomena "wood cutting month", "strong cold month", "Mars month", "flowers month", "Mai month", "red pigment larvae month", "linden trees month", "sickle month", "heather month", "chaff month", "falling leaves month", "frozen ground month"

Dates are written dd-mm-yyyy or yyyy-mm-dd (less often).

The rest is as bad as in USA.

> "Mars month"

I though marzec came from marznąć meaning "to freeze".

So you have the day before "seventh day" be called "fifth day"?

"Sabbath" comes from Hebrew for rest or cessation, not from being the seventh day.

Oh! I thought it meant “seventh”! Thanks for the correction.

Week starts on Monday.

> "second day"

Wtorek? That... does not appear to have "dwa" or anything similar in it. Please ELIC (explain like I'm Czech (actually am, tho lived in Poland for a bit))

There is an old Slavic word "vtorý" for "second" (not sure about spelling, but it is documented for example in old church Slavonic). Russian still uses "vtoroj" for "second". Several other Slavic languages have a word for Tuesday based on this root, even though their usual word for "second" follows a systematic derivation based on "dva" (two). Examples includes Czech and Slovak ("úterý" for Tuesday in both) and Polish ("wtorek").

You’d think old Church Slavonic to be an obscure language, but in my local church (in eastern Slovakia) you can attend a liturgy in this language twice a week.

Polish uses both "drugi" and "wtóry" for second (wtóry sounds old style, but most people understand it).

It's also still retained in words that mean "repeat(ed)" - powtórzyć, powtórny.

Wtóry is oldstyle "second" in Polish.

"Middle day" isn't the middle day?

It's the middle day of the work week.

Looks cute.

Roots of most of these words aren't instantly obvious even to Poles though - the meaning is there, but hidden behind layers of language evolution. I was aware of some of those roots already, but with some others I went like "huh, I guess this makes sense" only after reading the parent comment (although I'm not sure whether all of them are actually correct).

It was pretty obvious to me (except styczeń). But I did read Gołubiew's "Bolesław Chrobry" series that's written in Polish stylized to 10th century :)

Alien: So what is your first month?

Human: January

A: And why is it called that?

H: It's named for the god Janus.

A: Ah yes, many civilizations name their time divisions after deities, what is he the god of?

H: I don't know, we don't worship him anymore.

A: Ahh so you guys have moved past your need for religion

H: No, no, we still worship gods, just different ones.

A: Okay then, how about February, what god is that month named for?

H: Actually February is named for the festival of februalia.

A: Oh can you tell me a little more about this festival?

H: No, we don't celebrate it.

A: Are there any months that aren't named for gods you don't worship or festivals you don't celebrate?

H: There's July, named for Julius Caesar, a ruler.

A: Oh he must have been one of your best rulers to get a month named after him, what is he so notable for?

H: We stabbed him.

A: ...

H: A lot.

A: ...was he stabbed in July?

H: No, we stabbed him in March.

A: Okay are there any months not named for gods you don't worship, festivals you don't celebrate, or rulers you don't like?

H: Well October just means eight.

A: Finally, something that makes sense! Okay so your eighth month is just eight-

H: Tenth.

A: What?

H: October is our tenth month.

A: Why wouldn't you name your eighth month October?

H: We named that one after a guy.

A: What was his name?

H: Octavian, which coincidentally translates to eighth.

A: Don't tell me you have both an October and an Octover...

H: Don't be silly, no we named it August.

A: I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and guess August doesn't mean eight, does it?

H: Nah it means first.

A: Yeah, we're not letting you into our galactic federation.

Funny! :D the said alien should then talk with Lithuanian because every month name more or less is describes what is happening during that month


For what it's worth, leap day is at the "end" of a year. It's just a year that starts in March—an assumption shared with several other odd properties of this calendar.

This is why September, October, November and December are named after the numbers 7, 8, 9 and 10: they are the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th month if you start the year in March, like we used to.

The author mentions this as well. I don’t know how I’ve never connected those dots.

There’s no going back. I routinely mess up 8 with October now.

That happens especially if you speak a Latin language. Very annoying.

I always assumed that it made sense until july and august were added, which is how i explain it to children. This thread has mentioned several times that those were quintillis and sextillis or something prior. I still like my version better, it implies that emperors are egotistical.


Evidence for this is September October November and December are named as seventh eighth ninth and tenth months which matches with a year starting in March obviously intentionally at the spring equinox but calendar inaccuracies lost that.

Quarters should begin and end with equinoxes and solstices and be equivalent with seasons, major holidays aligned with quarter transitions and solar milestones make sense.

For a few years I lived my life rigorously to the beat of the french revolutionary calendar - i was very enamoured by its consistent month partitioning, and dumping the leap day at the end of the year's festival days. The major downside is that the months were named after French seasonal characteristics, which... doesn't really work.

The French revolutionaries made a whole lot of mistakes, some fatal, because they liked to dictate things top down.

Ooh, that's interesting. Did you use decimal time as well?

I gave it an honest try, but I found it much harder to adapt to than the calendar. I could just about do head-conversion for dates between Gregorian and Revolutionary calendars for things like appointments, but found it much harder to do it for both dates and time. I still have a love for the system, though.

Don't tell the aliens about the missing 12 days in 1752: https://www.augustachronicle.com/story/lifestyle/columns/201...

Or the 11 missing days in 1582.

I mean, programmers love to bitch about time zones, but that’s nothing compared to the stink we’d have raised if we’d been coding in a time when the date depended on which country you were in.

It might actually have been easier. Our current time system is regular enough that you can get away with skipping many irregularities (leap year is pretty much the one that matters). If you were forced to regularly deal with time conversions, you would just accept that different people have different times and you just need to convert.

This is still the case, since timezone differences affect day boundaries.

Not to the same extent. Sure it can be Wednesday 28th in Paris while it’s still Tuesday 27th in London… but then it will be Wednesday 28th in London soon.

That’s really not the same thing as it being Wednesday 28th in Paris while it’s Wednesday 17th in London. When the 28th rolls round in London, it won’t be a Wednesday…

This was harmless compared to the Swedish calendar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_calendar

It's not just days, there is a whole time period of a bunch of years where its not fully clear if they did exist or where skipped. I just forgot when.

This is sadly more of an urban legend. There recently was an article about this which also disproved this theory quite well, best seen in other civilizations that have no connection to the european one.

Not to mention that quite a few countries are also missing those 12 days, but in completely different years. Greece did so in 1923, for example.

And iirc at least one country decided that was too simple, decided to gradually shift, then reverted, then did it in one go.

Another user mentioned that it was Sweden: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_calendar

Or the missing day in samoa in 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16351377

This is absolutely hilarious, and despite being long form, fits Twitter format very well, with each chunk funnier than the last :)

A few notes:

- Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

- US (and maybe one or two English-speaking countries) are the only ones using 12h time, the rest of the world uses 24hrs, however 12h _sometimes_ is used conversationally;

- May be the author got tired (or whatever he took started to wear off) but I consider omitting the whole DST thing a major missed opportunity. :)

Also, for those interested, look up Swatch time invented in late 90s and touted as more logical replacement of the mess that we have. I believe they still maintain some Internet presence but mostly gave up on promoting it. Good luck breaking 1000+yo habits.

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week

/Officially/ almost everyone has standardized on ISO 8601 where Monday = 1 and Sunday = 7. But unofficially, not really. The week is still popularly understood to start on Sunday in English Canada, and probably some other parts of the English-speaking world.

A quick check of Wikipedia suggests Arabic, Portuguese and Vietnamese, all use number-based systems to name the days of the week, and they are indexed from Sunday = 1. But yes, the other is more common. Most of the Slavic languages, and Chinese, among others, use indexed from Monday = 1.

Then there's Swahili: Saturday = 1 and Friday = 7. Though personally, I believe Sunday is the 0th day of the week.

As a English Canadian who works for a company that was bought by an American company and was force switched to Sunday as the first day of the week….what? Maybe we “officially” or legally have Sundays as the first day but my entire life has been Mondays first. Every calendar I’ve had has been that way as well. It still messes with my mind, even four years later, that at work Sunday is the first day of the week.

What part of English Canada? In Alberta or Ontario (the parts I've lived in, though I was pretty young when I lived in Ontario) I've literally never seen a calendar with Monday as the first day of the week that I can recall.

I think there is a distinction between what people consider the first day of the week and what is printed on a calendar.

The person originally bringing this up referenced printed calendars always having Monday as the first day of the week, so it seems reasonable to use an observation of printed calendars with Sunday as the start of the week as a rebuttal.

Yes this, except it's not even a rebuttle, I'm just genuinely curious where this might be someone's experience because it's very at odds with my own.

I don't honestly care much what people consider the beginning of the week, I try to avoid ambiguity in planning as much as I can anyways for other reasons (this Sunday vs next Sunday for eg.) but I have been tripped up by an unexpected Monday-first calendar in a webapp.


If someone says "let's meet the 3rd week of April" and you say "ok, let's do Sunday", do you really mean the Sunday in the 4th calendar row?

Given that the first row is usually the end of the previous month: yes ;)

British Columbia.

I'm from Winnipeg originally and considered Sunday the first day of the week. Maybe it's regional or cultural?

It doesn't truly matter or? It's not like you are going to work on sundays. You only realize it with calenders in e.g. Outlook, and long gone TV guides....

It's a little disorienting on booking sites (hotels etc) when the first day of the week isn't Monday.

I once booked a train on the wrong day because the localisation changed part way through my search. (Fortunately I noticed.)

Ah, I disagree: it's disorienting when the first day of the week is on Monday.

Funny how that works, right?

What does it even mean to consider Sunday the first day of the week? What does it change?

In IT, this mess leaks to places it really shouldn't. I've never permanently lived nor worked in native english place, but the amount of time I've seen somewhere in some web app or work outlook weeks starting on Sundays... its maddening, you easily make mistakes in good faith that can have pretty bad consequences, without realizing them.

I think its airbnb that still shows me calendar starting form Sunday. Not cool when you are looking at all those other sites for flight bookings or car rentals, all of them starting from Monday since they respect your locale, and then you book accommodation by muscle memory (since you re-did the searches numerous times as planning decisions about vacation took place), starting at given field for day of the week, only realizing that its moved by 1 day earlier (or later, not sure now). Good if you find out quickly, bad if on the 'arrival' day and your family have nowhere to sleep and its already dark.

I know that this won't ever be resolved mainly due to big egos of those involved, in same way that there will always be those ridiculous feet and inches and miles and absurd conversions between those, on top of fahrenheit madness. Tells something about maturity of mankind...

Every. Single. Calendar.

If you’re in Ontario, you’ll rarely see a paper calendar that isn’t SMTWTFS

Same in Quebec.

Never heard anywhere in canada that don’t have their calendar start on Sunday but I’d be curious to find out otherwise.

Walk into a stationery store in British Columbia and you'll find both options.

Perhaps though that is due to the increasingly globalized world and stationery stores desire to have a lot of varied product from great product makers in Japan, USA and further afield.

I grew up aware that some people considered Sunday the start and others Monday, but didn't seem like there were any real firm rules about it where it mattered. I feel like I saw both being used. I always preferred using Monday as the start of the week.

Edit: Had a quick look at the Vancouver recycling calendar they sent me in the mail: Sunday first.

> Walk into a stationery store in British Columbia and you'll find both options.

Yeah, Staples or a high end paper craft store will have both.

But if you go into one of those popup calendar stores, all the calendars will be SMTWTFS.

"Sat and Sun constitute the weekEND, right?"

"Of course."

"And Sunday is the 7th day, the day of rest?"

"Yeah, that's what they preach at my church."

"What about your workplace?"

"Everybody knows the standard workweek is Mon-Fri. What's your point?"

"Ok, so we're agreed the weekends include Sunday, your Bible says Sunday is the 7th day, and the workweek starts on Monday."


"So printed calendars and day-planners and calendar software should treat weeks as starting on Monday, right?"


The Bible does not say that Sunday is the 7th day. It says that Saturday, the Sabbath, is the 7th day. And that Jesus rose on the day after the Sabbath, which means it was on the first day of the week. And that's the day most Chistians have adopted as their day of worship. (Except Seventh Day Adventists who keep it, as their name suggests, on the 7th day: Saturday.)

If your church preaches differently, they should read their Bible more carefully.

Seventh‐day Adventists are definitely the most prolific Christian keepers of a Saturday sabbath, but they are not totally alone. The next most prominent groups I can think of are Seventh Day Baptists and Messianic Jews. SDAs are in the tens of millions worldwide, Messianics in perhaps the hundreds of thousands, and SDBs under one hundred thousand.

Although they’re fairly distinct traditions, in my experience each places great importance on religious liberty and separation of church and state, because historically all three groups have faced governmental persecution from blue laws. SDAs go so far as to believe Revelation’s mark of the Beast refers to a blue law to come in the future.

Messianics also have been known to face religious persecution in Israel. To the extent Christianity is viewed with mistrust by Judaism due to Christendom’s history of persecuting Jews, Messianic Judaism is further seen as an attempt by Christians to co‐opt or corrupt Jewish practices.

(Another fun fact: Seventh‐day Adventists hyphenate their name, but Seventh Day Baptists don’t.)

And not event that far, sabbath (Saturday) is determined to be the 7th day of the week at the start of Genesis.

We also have "bookends" which go on both sides of the books they support. That's kinda how I see "weekends".

"Sat and Sun constitute the weekEND, right?"

It's called a bookEND only if it's to the right of the row of books. If it's to the left (for books in an RTL language), we call it a bookSTART

There are two bookends in every matching set - one for each end of the row of books.

6-day work weeks are still common in agriculture, and the Bible is silent on what the exact weekday the sabbath lands on. Some people really argue that it's supposed to be Saturday, but traditionally Jesus's resurrection is said to have happened on Sunday, so most Christian churches went along with that.

My own personal opinion: it matters not what day you consider to be the sabbath, but it does help when a community agrees on a day and goes along with it. So for me, Sunday it is. (It also doesn't matter how a calendar is printed; it could start on Wednesday for all I care. It'd be weird, but it wouldn't change anything.)

The day of the sun, or the Lord's day, is not the 7th day sabbath, it was declared by the Catholic Church to supersede the Sabbath and celebrate the resurrection instead.

In saying “the Sabbath . . . has been replaced by Sunday” (CCC 2190), the Church does not dismiss the significance of the Sabbath. The Catechism reminds us, “Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week” (CCC 2175).


As for which day is the 7th, you can check with descendants of the good book's authors, still around, and still keeping count. The Jewish faith hasn't lost track.

Thanks, that's good info :) I definitely have new things to study and ponder about.

I'm of the Latter-day Saints tradition and we basically use Lord's Day and Sabbath interchangeably, though I'm speaking anecdotally and from casual use. I may very well be using it incorrectly!

IIRC it was very common for early Christians, who were mostly Jews initially, to go to temple on the Sabbath (Saturday) and then have their own meetings on Sunday, as they didn’t consider them separate.

I think we can trust the Jews to have kept the Sabbath fairly consistently. The Christians literally changed their reserved day of the week in honour of Jesus' resurrection. Luckily the fact that this was the day after the sabbath is completely unambiguously pinned down in the Bible.

The Arabic/Islamic calendar starts at Sunday because the weekend is Friday and Saturday. In Islam, the weekly congregation (mass equivalent) takes place on Friday around noon.

Switched to a browser to comment exactly this.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, we started our work week on Saturday, with Wednesday being the last day of the work (school for me) week. It took me a long time to transition over to think about Saturday/Sunday as the days off. I still get random pangs of excitement on Wednesday thinking it’s the end of the week if my brain hasn’t warmed up.

I believe this is still the case in the gulf states and I would assume other Islamic countries.

You made me think of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia: All are Islamic majority in Southeast Asia. I Googled and look what I found: "Identify the first day of the week based on the locale"

Ref: https://help.salesforce.com/s/articleView?id=000338932&type=...

The entries for Indonesia don't make sense to me.

> A quick check of Wikipedia suggests Arabic, Portuguese and Vietnamese, all use number-based systems to name the days of the week, and they are indexed from Sunday = 1.

I can confirm that in Hebrew, the name for Sunday translates into "First Day", Monday into "Second Day", etc. Except for Saturday, which is Shabat.

Shabbat (apart from meaning "rest") is also generally accepted as deriving from the Hebrew word for "seven", which is "sheva". And Shabbat is sometimes referred to in Hebrew as "yom shvi-i" ("seventh day").

Citation needed.

Klein Dictionary gives the etymology of שַׁבָּת as derived from שׁבת (to rest). I also found references suggesting the origin is with the Akkadian šapattum, the 15th of the month, but none related to שׁבע (which originates in Proto-Canaanite).

היּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי (note the definite form!) is how Saturday is referred to in Genesis 2:2-3, without actually having the name שַׁבָּת. There's a some discussion about why שַׁבָּת isn't mentioned there as a name for the day, but regardless, your comment is the first time I read of the etymology of שַׁבָּת deriving from שׁבע.

I know it's not a reliable source by itself, and it lists no citations for the sentence in question, but FWIW, I based my answer on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabbat#Etymology :

> Other related words are ... to sheva (שֶׁבַע) meaning seven, as Shabbat is the seventh day of the week ...

Trying to read this on Android (in Materialistic) was fascinating, each line containing a Hebrew (?) word caused some of the words around it to switch places, but the words themselves are fine??

Unicode TR-9 is a hard beast to tame.

In Portuguese, Monday through Friday translates to something like “Second Fair” through “Sixth Fair”¹. Saturday and Sunday aren’t numbered.

¹ “Fair” as in “a gathering of stalls and amusements for public entertainment”.

Similar in Arabic, except Friday is juma and Saturday is sabat.

> The week is still popularly understood to start on Sunday in English Canada

As an english canadian (alberta), i have never in my life heard of people considering sunday the first day of the week.

Edit: appearently people are talking what is printed on calendar. I consider that to be a separate thing. If you asked me to list the days of the week in order i would start on monday, which is a totally separate question from the layout of a printed calendar.

> which is a totally separate question from the layout of a printed calendar

I have no strong preference on Monday/Sunday, and I don't think either is inherently more logical than the other. However, it would be illogical, whether Sunday or Monday first, to have the 7th and last day of the week, laid out as the first column on the calendar.

I like to have my two weekend days next to each other since they are a fairly discrete chunk of time in my mind and planning.

How would the colloquial understanding of the first day of the week get divorced from what's printed on calendars, though? I feel like one should inform the other, no?

Out of curiosity, if you have a calendar app on your computer, does it start with Sunday or Monday?

Majority of calendars in Japan are starts from Sunday but IMO now people think week starts from Monday. It's relevant to whether people work (or went to school) on Saturday or not (so two consecutive holidays). Some research shows that old ages (who worked on Saturday) tend to think it starts from Sunday.

Calendars tend to follow traditions, and the difference isn't much matter. Also computer apps are tend to follow the US culture since US dominates the industry.

I would guess that in a globalized world, stuff printed in the united states doesn't always match local culture.

Portuguese name weekdays by numbers ex Monday, Segunda-feira (Second Market), but I don't think anyone assumes Sunday as the first day.

And I leave the "market" for someone who still didn't have enough of this rabbit hole.

> I don't think anyone assumes Sunday as the first day.

That is not up to assumptions, but to conventions and arbitrariness. You find both conventions among Portuguese speakers, but mostly domingo/Sunday as the first day of the week.

A good way to check this is to websearch pictures for "calendário em português", and look for the first column of the calendar. Most will have D/Dom (domingo/Sunday); however a large minority will have S/Seg (segunda-feira/Monday) instead.

>And I leave the "market" for someone who still didn't have enough of this rabbit hole.

It's mostly a fossilised meaning.

Latin "feriae" originally meant holidays, holy days, vacations, and the likes; that's why the clergy¹ chose "feria" for the weekdays, as you'd be praising their god instead of the Pagan gods². However, already in Late Latin, this backformation also meant "fair"³. In Portuguese that second meaning eventually evolved to "street market", likely due to influence of the names of the days of the week - you don't work in domingo/Sunday or sábado/Saturday, but you gotta work and sell stuff in the "dias de feira" (feira days).

1. This clergy intervention was done in Latin. This is visible for the name of Tuesday being terça-feira ← tertia feria instead of *terceira feira (third holy day).

2. The traditional names for Monday to Friday were lues, martes, mércores, joves, vernes. Ecclesiastical interference got rid of the names for Sunday and Saturday early on, but if Portuguese inherited the Roman names they'd be something like "soes" and "sadurnes" respectively.

3. In fact that's where English got the word "fair" from. At least when it comes to those fancy markets/exhibitions/etc.; not to be confused with the homophone "fair" for just, beautiful, etc., as this one is native and unrelated.

Russian is similar to Portuguese, albeit off by one.

Monday = Segunda (second) = понедельник (start of the week)

Tuesday = Terça (third) = вторник (second)

Wednesday = Quarta (fourth) = среда (middle)

Thursday = Quinta (fifth) = Четверг (fourth)

Friday = Sexta (sixth) = пятница (fifth)

So I guess Russians have no doubt as to when the week starts.

On a side note, it's not 100% clear (to me, at least) that the word for Monday (ponedelnik) means "per week" or anything about the week per se.

In Russian the word for week is "nedelya", so "ponedelnik" does seem to naturally tie into that. But the word for Sunday in Russian is "voskresenie" (literally means resurrection). Notice this! Every religious word used in non-religious context is suspicious!

If we examine Bulgarian, the week is called "sedmica" (sedm == seven). And Sunday is called "nedelya" (I perceive it as "ne delya" === "no work").

Thus, in Bulgarian the word ponedelnik becomes like "the day after Sunday", rather than "the day starting every week".

Now going back to the Sunday resurrection theme, it's obviously of religious origins, so I dare assume that it may have replaced something that was already there (like nedelya). And then I imagine the people still wanted to keep the word around, so they started using it to mean "week" instead of "Sunday".

If so, then it would make sense that ponedelnik just means "post Sunday".

[The above is just a pet theory I haven't spent any time on, so I'm not guaranteeing its legitimacy]

This is correct, "nedelya" (no-work) is the common Slavic word for Sunday. The Russian variant is a more recent invention.

Note that this off-by-one is exactly the difference between Jewish/Biblical-based weeks, where the Sabbath is clearly the last day of the week (based on Genesis, the day when God rested), and more "revisionist" Jesus Christy-based weeks, where the day that Christ was resurrected is considered more important than the Sabbath and takes its place as the end of the week.

While the majority of Christians meet on Sunday and consider it the “new” Sabbath or the fulfillment of the Sabbath, in commemoration of Jesus’s resurrection, how does that relate to restructuring the week so Sunday is the last day? The Bible is clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath.

Matthew 28:1 (NIV): “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”

Mark 16:1–2 (NIV): “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb…”

Luke 24:1 (NIV): “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.”

John 20:1 (NIV): “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb…”

I believe, though am not sure, that once Christians stopped observing the Jewish Sabbath and instead resting on the Lord's day, it also became natural to consider it the end of their week, instead of the beginning.

Then why does the US, a very young culture compared to Europe, universally consider Sunday the first day of the week? Calling Sunday the seventh day must be a very recent development.

The USA was founded and its culture heavily influenced by very deeply religious Protestants. While by the time of the founding of the USA, Sunday was decently well established as the seventh day in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, most protestants were Bible originalists.

I believe that they resurrected the practice of considering Sunday as the first day of the week, based on the Old Testament tradition. Just like New Earth Creationism is in fact a relatively recent phenomenon driven by a renewed interest in literal interpretations of the Bible, that had long since been superseded in Catholic scholarship.

Actually Orthodoxy is arguably more inclined to treat Sunday as the first day of the week as witnessed by the Greek language.

There are also several patristic writings that conceptualise Sunday as the eighth day of creation, i.e. the resurrection perfecting and completing creation (this also suggests that literal seven day creation wasn’t taken that… er… literally back in the day).

Well, in Polish, Monday is poniedziałek, which means "after Sunday" (Sunday is "niedziela") and not "start of the week" and it looks analogous in Russian...

That sounds quite sensible. From memory, our (en_GB) weekdays are named like this:

Monday -> Moon day

Tuesday -> Tiw's day (Norse)

Wednesday -> Woden's day (Norse - Odin - chief god, one eye, two ravens)

Thursday -> Thor's day (Norse - god with a massive hammer) Friday -> Freya's day (Norse, rode a chariot drawn by cats)

Saturday -> Saturn's day (Roman, also: Saturnalia is the winter festival that eventually became Christmas)

Sunday -> Sun day

> That sounds quite sensible. From memory, our (en_GB) weekdays are named like this:

Spanish and English follow a similar day naming convention.

But the god's name needs to be translated from Norse Mitology to Roman Mitology first [1]

Lunes/Monday -> Moon/Luna

Martes/Tuesday -> Tiw/Mars

Miercoles/Wednesday -> Woden/Mercury

Jueves/Thursday -> Thunraz/Jupiter

Viernes/Friday -> Frig/Venus

Sábado/Saturday -> Saturn/Saturno

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretatio_graeca

With the exception of Saturday. Tacitus associated the Hebrew sabbath («sábado») with Saturn, but the word for the day itself is not «saturno» as it would be if it were like English.

I'd always thought (though I don't have a specific source I can recall), that the seven days of the week was drawn from the seven non-fixed celestial bodies visible ot the naked eye: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The planets were frequently associated with and named after deities, so the days of the week also have the names of deities.

Friday literally means Day of Frigg (Old English), referring to Frigga, the wife of Odin. Yes, Freya is believed to be the same goddess as Frigga, but the day is named after Frigga not Freya.

Thurday would probably be 'Þunor's Day' instead of Thor as it's Old English :)

They absolutely do in Portugal - I’ve been tripped up by “see you next Sunday” when they meant “see you this Sunday”.

> but I don't think anyone assumes Sunday as the first day.

You can get any calendar from a Portuguese speaking country to see they do.

Segunda-feria supposedly comes from Church Latin where it means 'second weekday'.

> Sunday = 1

Animals. Absolutely barbaric.

Everybody knows we should index lists starting at 0. /s

Well by struct tm, Sunday is 0. And months start at 0. And the day of the month starts at 1!

I remember years ago that Larry Wall said about Perl 5->6 upgrade: "We can fix some broken things." This was an item on his big list.

Time to start a movement to consider saturday the as the beginning of the week!

I remember seeing API that accepted both 0 and 7 as Sunday.

crontab uses this approach, for example.

> Then there's Swahili: Saturday = 1 and Friday = 7. Though personally, I believe Sunday is the 0th day of the week.

The cron way, where both 0 and 7 means sunday

> .. considers Sunday to be the first day of the week

How can the first day of the week happen in the middle of the weekend!?!

Weekends? Weekends are... the ... ends of the week. When you build a bookshelf, do you do:

<stack of bricks> <book> <book> <book> <book> <book> <stack of bricks>

or do you do:

<book> <book> <book> <book> <book> <stack of bricks> <stack of bricks>

When you want to know how your friend spent the previous Saturday and Sunday, do you ask:

"How was your weekend?"

Or do you ask:

"How were your weekends?"

When you purchase bookends, you get two, one for each end of the bookshelf.

A week is not a bookshelf, it's a snake. Does a snake have one end, or does it have two? Does a dog have two tails and two butts?

Weeks are not snakes, either. They're continuous, forever. Do snakes line up mouth to tail forever?

A week is not a snake. Each week is discrete and a different week from every other week.

Both ends of the week are the weekend.

One is the starting weekend, and the other the ending weekend.

Right, I (in the US) always figured "end" in the word "weekend" was akin to the two ends of a line segment, the two ends of a bar, etc.

To instead think of "end" in the word "weekend" as the opposite of "start" is to use a completely different definition of the word "end".

I wonder if "weekend" therefore has two definitions, given the split dependency.

It feels to me that for "end" to be used as the two ends of the week, it would be weekends (plural), not weekend (singular).

Considering that the word is from the British and the fact that the week ends with Sunday there, that can't be it. It would also be weekends, not weekend if there was multiple ends. The upcoming weekends doesn't mean Saturday and Sunday in the US... It occurs over a time period of at least one whole week into the future...right?

Sunday being the first day of the week came long (as in thousands of years) before the weekend was invented (which is a very recent development).

The same way all the other illogical things happened: random cultural legacy.

Why would you expect the week start day to be any different?

Because the week has two endpoints: the initial day of the week and the final day of the week.

> A quick check of Wikipedia suggests Arabic, Portuguese and Vietnamese, all use number-based systems to name the days of the week, and they are indexed from Sunday = 1. But yes, the other is more common. Most of the Slavic languages, and Chinese, among others, use indexed from Monday = 1.

For portuguese the name being number based has nothing to do with when the week starts, portugal is historically a very christian country and always had the week end on sundays, "and on the seventh day he rested", in both casual/formal speech and formally with calendars and such, saturday and sunday are always put at the end.

The names being numerical was because that's how the names were named during Holy Week (the week that ends with easter sunday), christians were supposed to rest and not work during that week, so sunday was the first rest day, monday the second rest day, etc. which is what the names mean, some people today think it means fair as in state fair/market, e.g. monday is "segunda-feira" = "second fair", but it actually means something closer to holiday, the modern portuguese word being férias.

The reason it took over was basically because the church said so, the old names were still based on old gods and the new nomenclature was adopted for all weeks instead of being Holy Week exclusive.

I guess if the aliens landed in portugal that would be another thing to add to the thread :)

All Christian denominations agree with the Jewish ones: God rested on the seventh day - The Sabbath, or Saturday. Jesus was then resurrected on the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the Jewish week, which became the Lord's Day in many European languages (Domenica, Domingo, Duminică etc). It was quickly understood as a non-working day, a day of religious celebration, but it was still the first day of the week.

Now, since Jesus and his resurrection are much more important in Christianity than the creation of the world, the Sabbath began losing its importance, and so renumbering the week started making sense, but was a contentious religious and political issue for a long time. Of course, having two rest days, and one of them being based on Jewish customs in a quite anti-semitic medieval Europe, played a part as well in wanting to change things.

I'm relatively sure that the Portuguese week day names are based on the original Jewish week.

> A quick check of Wikipedia suggests Arabic, Portuguese and Vietnamese, all use number-based systems to name the days of the week, and they are indexed from Sunday = 1.

Vietnamese only numbers the days of the week from Monday to Saturday, with Monday = 2 and Saturday = 7. Sunday has its own name that isn't a number and is always put at the end of the week.

I thought that that in Slavic languages Sunday would be the first day of the week, since the Polish for 'monday' means 'after sunday'.

EDIT: got 'monday' and 'sunday' the wrong way round

In Russian, Sunday is "Resurrection Day" and Monday is "The Thing concerning Not-Doing being in the Past-Perfective Tense" (po + ne+del + nik)

It looks like Polish is similar except that Sunday is "Not-Doing"

In Polish, Sunday is „niedziela”, and Monday is also „poniedziałek”, so it actually makes more sense than in Russian :) I suspect “niedziela” («неделя») was the original, proto-Slavic word for the day of the week, as some variations of it are used for I think all Slavic languages except Russian, who at some point decided to rename it to celebrate Resurrection.

Not-Doing can be a false alias: the week is nedelya and ponedelnik may thus mean "one going with the week*, i.e. starting it.

Altough I'm not sure since the sibling proto-slavic explanation makes much sense. Fun fact: slavic languages split off in medieval times when the calendar and the week were already thorougly taken care of.

Only in Russian.

In other Slavic languages it's mostly some form of ty + djen' (Polish tydzien Croatian tjedan Czech týden Belarusian тыдзень Ukrainian тиждень). But see Bulgarian (седмица seven-thing (fem.)).

I suspect (without evidence) that, in Russian, it's referring to Sundays as a way of reckoning weeks.

week:Sunday :: year:summer :: month::moon. Cf. "When I was but 10 summers old", "Many moons ago", etc.

That would fit with the use of the archaic word for Sunday as well.

Ponedelnik etymologically means the day after the not-doing day. Nowadays the connection is lost because Sunday is no longer called “nedelja”.

Depends ;). In Croatia its still called nedjelja (Sunday) and ponedjeljak (Monday).

Hmm, and the week is the not-done-thing?

Etymology is hard, the week “ne-delya” could be understood as something that cannot be divided, “not-divisible”. I am not sure which one is correct.

nope, monday is „after sunday”

Thanks for catching that, I got my English the wrong way round.

> The week is still popularly understood to start on Sunday in English Canada

Interesting. How does software (e.g. Google Calendar) display weeks when in en_CA localization?

Most software I can think of lets you configure it independent of the locale.

In Chinese the weekdays are also numbered and indexed to Monday: Monday = 星期一 xingqi yi (1), Tuedsay = xingqi er (2), all the way down.

Japanese calendars start the week with Sunday as well.

This is incorrect. The US is hardly the only country where people consider Sunday to be the first day of the week. Anyone with some understanding of the history of our weekdays does so, and that historical understanding is not limited to Americans.

It's also not true that the US is the only country to use 12h time; many countries do. Including mine. If you need to write time without ambiguity, you use the 24h format, but in everyday use and in cases where context makes it clear what you mean, people use the 12h format.

Yeah I agree. 12h time is the natural consequence of using analog clocks where one rotation of the hour hand on the dial represents 12 hours. But I guess it won't be hard to represent 24h if the speed of the hour hand is halved, although I have never seen such clocks.

you can find them in novelty shops

Idk what "novelty shop" is.

What country is that? I’ve only really seen 12h time in America and it’s colonies.

In Finland its common to use 12h time in conversation. Digital clocks are 24 hours, but many people still use analog clocks, which are always 12 hours.

And for what its worth, the name for Wednesday, keskiviiko, means midweek.

German “mittwoch” for midweek too.

We might say beers at 5, but I haven’t seen “5.00p” rather than 1700 in written form for decades outside of the US

Netherland. I suspect it's pretty common across continental Europe.

Legit question. What is a weekend in the US? Is a weekend in the US Friday - Saturday?

Most places consider the week to end with Sunday and the weekend is usually considered to be from after work on Friday(or technically Saturday) until Monday starts.

But when an American says "right over the weekend", do they mean Sunday, since the US week starts on Sunday? Or does the week actually start on Monday as in most places?

I'm from this planet, and even I am confused with all of us, but especially with Americans.

So, the standard US weekend is Saturday–Sunday, even amongst the Sunday=1 holdouts. I say holdouts, because it helps to understand that this isn’t agreed on even within the US. Not to suggest that the holdouts are a minority, I honestly don’t know but I doubt it. I think, apart from the initial puzzlement of recognizing the inconsistency, most of us don’t give much thought at all to which day is 1. “Weekend” generally is used colloquially to mean whichever two simultaneous days the speaker or audience is off work, insofar as they have two consecutive days off work.

I believe, but I may be wrong, that the inconsistency arises from Sunday being the Christian sabbath. That “starts” the week, but it’s a traditional day off for religious observance. And this tradition goes back well before the 40 hour work week, and the common Monday–Friday work week. Which is to say that “weekend” didn’t originally have connotations about which days were work days, they were typically all work days except for the Christian sabbath. Which as a retcon makes the present colloquial usage even odder, even if it’s (maybe?) more consistent with how other countries/cultures use it.

> I say holdouts, because it helps to understand that this isn’t agreed on even within the US.

I disagree. I can’t remember having ever seen calendars display any day other than Sunday as the first of the week, except in the case of computer software made by non-Americans who didn’t think to localize it.

There’s still ambiguity in verbal language. On Sunday, if someone messages you “let’s do this next week” - do they mean “in the next 6 days” or “after 7 days from now”?

"Next" has terrible ambiguity, beyond the phrase "next week." If it's Monday and someone says "next Thursday" do they mean the coming Thursday (+3) or the one after that (+10)? I assume the latter, except when it's said by people who I know disagree!

But even with people I don't put in that category, I'd hesitate to assume +13 days if they said "next Sunday" on Monday. More likely they mean +6 when it's so far out...

Tell me about it. My wife and I cannot agree on the meaning of "next" for almost anything, and we are Spanish speakers.

For example, when driving, to her "turn at the next corner" means "the corner after the next", while to me it means "the corner the car is about to cross". What I call "the next corner" to her is "this corner".

Same with days, of course.

It drives me crazy!

I don’t know if it would translate, but I’ve had good outcomes navigating with my brother by saying “following” instead of “next”. As in “okay we’re coming to Delaware street and we’ll take a left at the following intersection”. It’s not even language my brother uses but he immediately understood “next next not this next” and so I stuck with it.

Oh wow. The only context in which I (and people around me) use "next" like that is with days, which is confusing in its own right, but at least it's contained.

“Next Thursday” vs “next week Thursday”. The former, for me, means +3 and the latter +10. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when someone I know has said the former but implied +10.

Interesting to see so many people here who do interpret it that way.

In my area it's fairly common to say, for example, "X happens every Thursday. Do you want to go this Thursday or next Thursday?" which is equivalent to +3 versus +10.

Same with my wife; she tells apart "this Thursday" and "next Thursday" in exactly the way you describe. I don't. Predictably, all sorts of confusions ensue.

That kind of ambiguity is everywhere, though. If it's Friday, and I say "next Monday", those two days are close enough that you may need clarification - do I mean "this coming Monday" or "the Monday after that". Or another example for day 1 = Monday, if on Sunday I said "let's do that next week", you may need the same form of clarification.

I don’t see any ambiguity in “next Monday”. It literally is saying the next day which is Monday.

“Next week” on a Sunday is ambiguous because some people consider the new week to have started while others consider it to start the next day.

Human speech doesn't often work on just the literal meanings of words though, hence the ambiguity. Very very rarely at 10PM on a Sunday night does anyone mean "tomorrow" when they say "See you at the club next Monday". They usually don't mean that because we have the word "tomorrow" and that's more precise.

Likewise, on a Friday afternoon most people (in my experience) don't say "Hey we're having a cook out next Sunday, want to come?" and mean the Sunday in exactly two days. Again, because the phrase "this Sunday" is available and more precise.

In fact, I think in my experience "next X" almost always implies a full 7 days between now and the X. If my boss on Monday says "we need this in production next Friday" I don't normally take that to mean "we need this in production in the next 4 days.

There's a real ambiguity, but it isn't in the examples you gave.

It's the case of saying "next Tuesday" on a Thursday, and meaning that no Tuesdays will pass before the date in question, versus saying "next Thursday" on a Tuesday, where a Thursday will happen before the date.

That's because on Thursday, "this Tuesday" has already happened. But sometimes people will be thinking of "Tuesday after next" when they say "next Tuesday" on a Thursday, because they mean "the Tuesday after the coming Tuesday" and not "the Tuesday of next week".

Both cases are still ambiguous because even though “this” Tuesday has already passed on Thursday, no one gets confused when you say “I’m having a cook out this Tuesday, want to come?” because the future tense of the sentence automatically excludes the Tuesday in the current week which has already passed.

Since “next Tuesday” also puts the sentence context into the future, the ambiguity exists around whether it means “Tuesday in 5 days” or “Tuesday in 12 days”

If no such ambiguity existed, we wouldn’t need common phrases like “this coming Tuesday” which clarifies the speaker is talking about the “next Tuesday with no other Tuesday’s in between”

Amusingly I don’t think there’s much ambiguity around “the Tuesday after next” as a phrase even though it should be equally ambiguous, but I’ve never heard that phrase to mean “3 Tuesdays from now”

> I don’t see any ambiguity in “next Monday”. It literally is saying the next day which is Monday.

But when communicating with other people, it matters what they understand. And I've come across enough people who don't use "next Monday" like that to understand the word "next" means trouble.

Almost universally meant to mean in the next 6 days. Next week implies after 7 days.

This isn't almost universal, in fact it's generally understood not to be the case, some of the time.

If I say "next Wednesday" on Thursday, I mean the Wednesday of next week, not "this Wednesday" which was yesterday.

"Next Weekday" of a weekday that's yet to happen, means one week after that day within this week.

"Next Weekday" of a weekday that already happened, means the very next instance of that day in the calendar, "This Weekday" refers to the past.

"Hey, this Tuesday was your presentation right? How did it go?"

"We rescheduled for next Monday actually". <- this is obviously the Monday after the coming weekend.

You're right. I intuitively know and follow what you're saying, but I didn't put it into words correctly.

Slightly confused - don’t your two sentences contradict each other?

Edit: also on a Friday, you can say next week and mean Monday (3 days later)

Sorry I read your post incorrectly. If I say, let's do something this week, it means up to and including Sunday. If I say next week, it means after the upcoming Sunday.

That makes sense for places where the week starts with Monday, but I guess this week means up to and including Saturday for Americans if it's actually normal that the week starts with Sunday.

I was always under the impression that Americans basically agreed on that the week started on Monday, that the weekend ended with Sunday and that next week meant after Sunday. I thought Sunday as the first day in American calendars was a "yeah, it's stupid we do it like that, but I guess that is how it used to be back in the days" kind of thing.

I disagree with the sibling poster. Your first paragraph is correct.

The week starts on Sunday. The weekend ends on Sunday. It only makes sense if you consider two adjoining endpoints of previous weeks to be one "weekend", which I've never known anyone not to do without thinking about it.

Someone talking at work might mean something different, but I don't usually hear "next week" to mean Monday-Sunday in general conversation and we'd probably clarify for Sunday anyway.

If someone says "The week of the 15th" and Sunday is the 15th, they mean the seven days from 15-21 not the seven days of 9-15.

"Next week, maybe Sunday" means the next calendar Sunday as in Sunday-Saturday, not the Sunday after that as in Monday-Sunday.

Anyone who says otherwise is selling calendars with a Monday start of the week. :)

Your 2nd paragraph is correct. No one actually thinks about when the week starts, it's almost universally understood to be Monday based even if the calendar says Sunday based.

The answer is the same on Saturday as on Sunday, so that doesn't really matter.

The ones I see always starts with Monday, but we all have to configure every single peace of software that comes from USA to show it as such.

No. It starts from the creation story where creation starts on Sunday and ends on Friday and then the seventh day (Saturday) is the day of rest - the sabbath.

You are thinking of how Jesus is said to resurrect on the first day of the week (I.e., Sunday) and later that becomes the Sabbath day for (most) Christians.

Thank you for the additional detail about the origin of Sunday as a sabbath, and the nuance that it’s not observed on Sunday by all Christians. I was not actually thinking about the resurrection story, or even about how Sunday came to be observed as such, but it led to some interesting reading.

I've found it hard to search for details of this aspect of labor history because results are almost entirely about the movement for, and details of, what came after: the 8 hour workday. But my understanding is still that Sunday was historically the conventional rest day in the US (at least for workers who could enjoy a rest day at all), regardless of the history of the traditional Jewish/pre-Christian/Restorationist sabbath observed on Saturday. The best source I’ve found so far[1] doesn’t explicitly say so, but does strongly suggest that Saturday came later as a recognized day off because the competing “weekend” equivalent spanned Sunday–Monday (I’m also fascinated to have learned about Saint Monday). I’m sure there are other sources to find, but I’m going to leave it here to enjoy the remainder of my rest day/weekend/first day of the week.

1: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200117-the-modern-phe...

Weeks are always displayed as beginning on Sunday in the US (I get confused and annoyed when a calendar app is improperly localized for en_US and shows weeks as starting on Monday).

Separately, we call Saturday and Sunday “the weekend”. Yes, these two facts are logically inconsistent, but we live with it and I have never observed it causing any difficulty in practice.

The concept of weekend is quite a recent development.


The concept of Sunday as the first day of the week dates back thousands of years.

Why is this important? Maybe it was, but the ISO standard now is that Sunday is the last day of the week.

I was responding to the post above mine and not to the topmost post.

Obviously Sunday is the left end of the week, Saturday the right.

If that's the case then surely it should be called the "weekends" plural rather than just "weekend" singular. :P

The way I've always thought it was meant to be is that the "weekend" is really the "week ends," meaning start and end, the same way a shoelace has 2 ends.

The american weekend is sat-sun. Work week starts on the second day of the week. Because reasons.

“Weekend” in the US typically refers to Saturday / Sunday.

Monday through Friday is the workweek.

That was my point, if the workweek in US is Monday through Friday, and US weekend is Saturday and Sunday, there's NO REASON WHATSOEVER to call Sunday "the first day of the week"...

It's biblical. Saturday is the sabbath, the 7th day rest day, which would make sunday the first day. Later, christians decided to hold mass on sunday instead, because it was when Jesus resurrected. Eventually you end up with saturday and sunday as rest days, even though one is biblically the first and one is biblically the last day of the week. But both are the "weekend".

Think of it as "weekends" as in the limits of the week not "weekend" as in the last part of the week.

In SMWTTFS the Saturday and Sunday are at the ends as in limits of the week, and furthermore it makes sense for there to be two "weekend" days like there are two bookends. In MWTTFSS Sunday is the only actual end of the week with Saturday being included just because(?) and Monday being "weekbegin", which isn't really a word in English.

So based on this SMWTTFS seems more logical and sensible at least in English.

Why would I think of a weekend not as a weekend but as weekendS, which is 2 days, one of which is the end and another is beginning? It's called weekend, as in the end which follows the week. Which therefore starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.

I mean I get it that Sunday being the first day of the week is a leftover from religious past but this does not make it any more logical when applied to the workweek/weekend cadence. Moreover, most of European countries where workweek starts on Monday already consider it the 1st day of the week, why can't US do the same and be done with it?

> Moreover, most of European countries where workweek starts on Monday already consider it the 1st day of the week, why can't US do the same and be done with it?

What benefit would we get from doing so? Metric I can understand the benefits of, though I also see why Americans are resistant implementing such a disruptive change in daily life. But shifting our definition of the week by one day provides no benefit that I can see, nor does keeping it the way it is cause any harm. The primary argument I’ve seen in these threads is “because the word ‘weekend’ doesn’t make sense,” but that’s not very convincing to me since I and every other American I know find the phrasing perfectly natural—and if we want to make the English vocabulary perfectly ‘logical’ and ‘consistent,’ there are far more disturbing malapropisms in common use to tackle first.

The year also starts and ends with winter. The day starts and ends with night. So growing up it seemed to fit that the week would start and end with weekend.

There are many reasons to call Sunday the first say of the week. Mostly historical ones. Weeks have existed for far longer than the US or in fact any modern country has. Or the concept of a 5-day work week, in fact. The Monday as the first day of the week is modern revisionism.

There’s no reason whatsoever (other than historical) for any of the inconsistencies explored in the tweet thread. Why should the start of the week be any different?

The five day workweek is a fairly new thing (early to mid 20th century); the day numbering thing is much older.

No reason other than some 6000-7000 years of record keeping by Hebrews, tracking the 7th day.

The Hebrew calendar kept changing as they moved and adapted the calendar designed by the ruler of the lands.

Hebrew words for the week came from Akkadian and sabbath itself can be traced back to the Babylonian loan word for fifteen..mistaken as seven. šabattu is the 15th day of the month, the time of the full moon Vs “sebūtu“ was the 7th day of the lunar quarter.

The Akkadians had no concept of ‘week’. They simply followed the moon. Starting with the new moon, first quarter, second quarter and third quarter. Their festivals were based on the 1, 7 etc and 15 day with the 15th day being observed as the bright full moon.

It must have been from the Babylonians that the Hebrews adopted the 7 day week because they had seen them celebrate the 7th day, “sebūtu“. Altho they probably chose the word for the 15th day/full moon of Babylonian šabattu as it’s closer to Hebrew ‘sabbot’ and their word for ‘rest’. Post exile Hebrews took this to create the Hebrew calender and created sabbot as the 7th day of rest.

The Babylonians celebrated 1, 7, 21 and 28th day after new moon as the beginning of each quarter. Hebrews simply took each quarter to be a slice of time instead of differentiating between the four quarters between two new moons.

I’ve seen this theory proposed, but is it actually widely accepted by historians? Wikipedia says that a connection “has been suggested”[0], which doesn’t seem like very strong wording.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabbat

Yes..it was proposed by a linguist, iirc. There is only one 2015 paper where I have read it. But it seems most plausible. Consider this. The Greeks had no calender. Cannanite Hebrews had no Egyptian admixture. So what remains is the sandwich period from where the record keeping must have been directly influenced by the Babylonians.

> Hebrew words for the week came from Akkadian

The days in Hebrew are simply numbered, First day, Second day etc. except for Shabbat

A lot of people have already commented on how Israel and the Middle East consider Sunday to be the first day of the week, but I'd like to add that the week itself seems to originate in Judaism (Wikipedia, "Week"):

"A continuous seven-day cycle that runs throughout history without reference to the phases of the moon was first practiced in Judaism, dated to the 6th century BC at the latest."

In Judaism the week starts from Sunday, so you could argue that it's not completely illogical for it to be the case in the US.

Changing the rest day of the week to Sunday was a change made in Christianity by the Council of Laodicea:

"Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ".

Honestly I didn't find it funny, maybe because it ignores the reasons of the inconsistencies, that by the way are perfectly understandable looking at space.

Months are related to Moon's orbit, weeks to its phases. Months have other gods's names: Janus, Phoebe, Mars, Aphrodite, Maya, Juno... Julius and Augustus were emperors and from that point are just numerals, starting at March. It was associated with Mars because Romans used to go to war in the Spring.

Asimov had an excellent chapter on calendar in his divulgative book The Universe, explaining why it's not so easy to design a regular "logical" calendar.

The point of comical absurdities like this is precisely that they appear comical or absurd if you don’t know the reasons for them being the way they are. That doesn’t mean there are no reasons, it’s just that those reasons aren’t necessary or even relevant to appreciating the apparent absurdity.

FWIW, I wasn't trying to explain why it isn't funny, but why I don't find it funny. YMMV.

Nobody needs to know all those annoying details, but once you know, the joke doesn't work so well, at least it didn't for me.

Also I believe that the Moon deserves some respect. It makes nights less scary, inspires whimsical humans and provided a convenient way to measure middle-length periods of time when a precise calendar hadn't been developed... many moons ago.

I find it pretty juvenile. It's like when a rookie dev first faces some production codebase and starts wanting to rewrite everything.

Many people going to read this thread and think "yes, everything is completely backwards and nonsensical, I hate all forms of historical traditions and reasoning"

I'm also making a comical absurdity just fyi. Do people like this exist? I don't know

Perhaps… but the author presents as if telling the reasons but the reasons are just absurd

Don't bother dissecting the frog; this website is populated mostly by sticks in the mud.

yeah, but one could lead the time explanation with that. the alien sure picked an uninformed chap to learn about time.

> Months are related to Moon's orbit, weeks to its phases.

But in a way that doesn't work right.

> Months have other gods's names: Janus, Phoebe, Mars, Aphrodite, Maya, Juno... Julius and Augustus were emperors and from that point are just numerals, starting at March. It was associated with Mars because Romans used to go to war in the Spring.

Yes? That's a mess and that's basically what the tweets said. They didn't mention the emperors but that makes it even messier. I'm not sure what you're arguing there. There's no "perfectly understandable" reason for having some gods some emperors and some wrong numbers.

But in a way that doesn't work right.

It works great for the purpose that it was used: counting groups of days when regular humans didn't have the luxury of more precise calendars.

The part that doesn't "work right" is that the different natural cycles used to measure time are not multiples of others, so adjustements are always needed. That's why calendar is complex, it was fixed repeatedly until it doesn't drift.

Weeks and months are not kept because we don't know better, but because they're useful units for social reasons.

There's no "perfectly understandable" reason for having some gods some emperors and some wrong numbers.

That's a different part of the comment, addressing the hint that there's a religious reason for the calendar.

There are several eras used by different countries, and the common western calendar has several layers: weekdays seem to be of Sumerian origin, months at least in Latin and other European languages come from Roma and the AD year counting is "Christian" and widely used maybe because the last major useful adjustement was this one:


But it seems they didn't bother to change the names of previous layers. If something works, just leave it alone. You may argue that there are more "rational" ways to organize time measurement. I would recommend to read what Asimov had to say on the subject.

> It works great for the purpose that it was used: counting groups of days when regular humans didn't have the luxury of more precise calendars.

If you want a quarter month then have a quarter month.

Having a set of days that pretends to be a quarter month but rapidly falls out of sync is worse than having no quarter month at all.

If you gave any other reason for seven days, I wouldn't say it doesn't work right. But that reason makes the length of the week supremely half-assed.

> But it seems they didn't bother to change the names of previous layers. If something works, just leave it alone. You may argue that there are more "rational" ways to organize time measurement. I would recommend to read what Asimov had to say on the subject.

You're conflating two very different problems when you talk about it like that. Trying to make the units line up is legitimately difficult. Bad naming is not because of legitimate difficulty.

What will you suggest next, to fix the spelling of the English language? I'm all for it! But I don't have high hopes... [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified_Spelling_Board

Having a set of days that pretends to be a quarter month but rapidly falls out of sync is worse than having no quarter month at all.

So you want to reform the week, the only time cycle that hasn't been altered in millennia to sync it with... what exactly?

Different groups of time have different goals. Scientific and technical applications only use the second. Years are useful both for agriculture and astronomy. Year subdivisions, weeks and months are useful for legal, social and personal purposes: weekends, holidays, celebrations, birthdays, embarrassing familiar reunions and all that.

They neither have to be in sync with anything, just being useful to track days in a year, nor they need to be mathematically pleasant, any programmers worth their salt will write you a perpetual calendar generator in five minutes.

> So you want to reform the week, the only time cycle that hasn't been altered in millennia to sync it with... what exactly?

No. I don't want to change the week at all. I'm just saying that "the week is 7 days so it's a quarter month" is broken as hell.

> Julius and Augustus were emperors and from that point are just numerals, starting at March

It used to be numbers earlier, Quintilis and Sextilis were renamed for them.

Apparently the Romans did not find hard naming even persons - they just went by numbers, as in Secundus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, Octavius, etc.

They didn't have too many personal names in general, IIRC about 20 or so commonly used, including numeric ones (there's even Decimus - I guess they had big families). And looking at how Ceasar is always Julius Ceasar (while his personal name was Gaius) it looks like they didn't use it too much outside of family and close friends. Which kinda makes sense - if you know 10 guys with personal name Gaius, it's not very useful to say just "we're having a party at Gaius' place tonight".

Augustus' first name was Octavius... now August is the eighth month, full circle.

Also, if you start in March, it suddenly makes sense that leap year adjustments are done in February (and also that it's the shortest month to begin with).

> Months have other gods's names: Janus, Phoebe, Mars, Aphrodite, Maya, Juno...

January, March, and June are named for Janus, Mars, and Juno. February, April, and May are not known to be named for any god, nor is there any particular reason to believe they are.

> February, April, and May are not known to be named for any god, nor is there any particular reason to believe they are.

May is named after Maia, the goddess who oversees the growth of plants.

What makes you say that? According to who?

Compare what Ovid wrote about the name of May:

> You may ask whence I suppose the name of the month of May to be derived. The reason is not quite clearly known to me [because there are too many theories].

[J. G. Frazer's translation for the Loeb series]

That the name honors a Maia is one of three theories he goes on to present, the others being that May is named after the personification of Majesty [maiestas] and that May is named in honor of society's elders [maiores].

Oxford English Dictionary says: classical Latin Māius (adjective and, short for Māius mēnsis , noun), probably < the name of a deity cognate with the name of the goddess Māia (see Maia n.) and with magnus great (see magni- comb. form).

For April, on the other hand: classical Latin Aprīlis, use as noun (short for mēnsis Aprīlis month of April) of masculine of Aprīlis of April, of uncertain origin; perhaps < Etruscan.

(Oxford English Dictionary is a great resource. In the UK you can often get free online access through free membership of a public library.)

> Oxford English Dictionary is a great resource.

Absolutely true, but difficult to get access from the US without a university affiliation.

However, it isn't obvious that the OED is a better source on the meaning of a classical Latin month name than a classical Roman is. It's certainly possible, but not close to a slam dunk. And the OED is appropriately hesitant to say that it knows the origin of the name.

I'd be curious when the entry was updated, except that I can imagine the entry for "May" being updated for quite a few other reasons than to review the etymology.

(I might as well note that Ovid also presents two theories for the name of June, one that it is named in honor of Juno and one that it is named in honor of either the goddess Youth [Iuventas] or youths [iuvenes] in general, forming a contrast with May. There appears to be no real distinction between honoring Youth or honoring youths, despite the fact that honoring Maiestas and honoring the maiores are explicitly presented as separate theories.

I would say the June-from-Juno theory is on much stronger ground than the May-from-Maia theory simply because Juno is so much more important a god, but that is also open to debate.)

> I'd be curious when the entry was updated

Curiosity should be rewarded!

"This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2001; most recently modified version published online September 2022)."

And there's a link to "Previous version: OED2 (1989)" where the etymology is given as: ... "The etymology of the Latin name is obscure; some ancient writers connected it with the name of the goddess Maia."

(Since you read Ovid probably there's nothing new for you in that!)

Chesterton's fence seems to apply here.

Hum, no. There is no reason not to change it (except for inertia, what is a better reason than any you will see). It is logical (once you get over the fixation with 60), but none of that logic is a good reason to keep it.

This reminds me of the discussion the other day about how the A_n paper sizes are superior because you can fold them in half to get the next size down. Just like having a more logical calendar - it would be nice but not very useful. The value is in the network effect of everyone using the same system (so kind of like the "inertia" you mentioned).

just because something has historical reasons does mean it makes sence today. There is no reason for the Moon to have any place in a modern calendar.

You already have 2 values: year and day, and they do not divide nicely. But they serve a practical purpose in a modern society, so we have to deal with them. The moon does not, but adds a third factor.

I disagree. Moon is the closest celestial body to earth and we have historically been able to make very accurate observations and calculations based on its orbit and waxing and waning phases.

I think the point is that our current calendar does have historical roots involving the moon but isn’t actually useful for predicting moon phases, tides, etc. and thus is not in fact an important mechanism for modern calendars.

The purpose of a calender is to measure and predict the march of time. Ancient calenders used the moon and sun to determine time and seasons.

Modern calenders are designed to determine when people will work and when they will rest. The purpose is entirely different in our time.

Current calender’s historical roots only start from Ptolemaic and early Roman periods when the Romans created a planetary week. But it didn’t gain popularity especially in Western Europe. So they adopted the 6 day Jewish week and one day of the Lord’s day of rest.

Only where there was Roman rule and expansion, the new calender and planetary week was installed. Because the Romans needed to keep track of time to monitor work of their conquered territories.

Everywhere else, it was still the lunar calender/sun rise+set for time keeping and solar calender tracking the sun for seasons.

I hear you. I am just saying ‘modern’ is ‘western’ and the west is using time to clock in and clock out people who work. That’s for why if you are rich and don’t have to work, every day is weekend and every hour can be the proverbial ‘happy hour’.

In our time, calenders and clocks are used to track our obligations and when to file tax returns. I still follow the Indian Vedic lunisolar calender for moon cycles and seasons because it keeps me grounded and sane. I feel connected to the earth and sky.

It takes some effort to compartmentalise time for different purposes, but it gives me comfort and escape from the modern world. I am not disagreeing or trying to discredit the western and modern calender. I am just sharing what works for me and the origins of it from my culture/religion.

ETA: calendar has been misspelt as calender throughout. I think I did it once and for some reason, auto complete keeps using it. I don’t want to search and correct every spelling mistake. So this is a blanket correction.

But the Moon has no influence in modern everyday life. It did in the past, for scheduling fishing, to attack an enemy tribe when there’s no moon, or to hunt nocturnal animals when there is.

Moon influences us in three ways: Time, Tide and Light.

We now have apps that inform us. But. If we can read a lunar calendar, we can organise our life around the moon cycles.

There is a reason the word ‘lunatic’ is derived from ‘lunar’. We are mostly made of water. Luna definitely has an effect on our bodies and our moods. Why isn’t it a good thing to understand the ecosystems around us that is time and space..and the ecosystem with us that is mind and body?

> We are mostly made of water. Luna definitely has an effect on our bodies and our moods

I accept that the moon has effects in the tides. As for the rest...

I have heard that before, but every time it was by someone who standed to gain something from me believing that - that when Moon is on the 7th House and Jupiter Aligns With Mars then Peace will Guide the Planets and Love Will Steer me to open my wallet and register to this self-help course.

Do you have any reference to a credible source that can prove that the Moon has those other effects you mention? Something like a test with a significant enough number of people involve, and a control group.

> Why isn’t it a good thing to understand the ecosystems around us that is time and space..and the ecosystem with us that is mind and body?

I strive very hard to understand the ecosystems around us (And beyond - from the most distant galaxies to how the atoms and sub-atomic particles make us work how we work). But I use Science for that.

No, I don’t have the time to search for a credible source about the effect of Moon upon Planet Earth.

However, I am a student of astrology tho’…maybe I can see how your natal Moon will steer you. But I am not sure how much you will appreciate it being invested in Science and all that. Take care.

I need to know if it's day or night. for obvious reasons. I need to know if its summer or winter for temperature.

When was the last time you planned a holiday for the waning phase of the moon?

I plan beach visits based on tides, does that count?

That depends, have you heard of Easter?


Why is it unacceptable to you for someone to explain why they do not find something funny?

We are really not all the same. HN is a big old forum and there is no such thing as a normal response.

That person was describing their personal reaction to ... something. I don't think that proscribing dogma is helpful in response.

> Why is it unacceptable to you for someone to explain why they do not find something funny?

I mean, it's not "unacceptable", free speech and all. It's just silly to jump in and "well actually" a joke, especially when the explanation is kind of why the joke was funny.

Different people see humour in different ways or even not at all.

Do I really need to spell it out?

No, but maybe I do …

Don’t yuck someone’s yum.

Let people enjoy things.

Don’t rain on the parade.

I believe that it is in spirit of this website that you are encouraged to explain poorness of a joke, if you find it poor. After all, if it inspires curiosity what's the issue?

It was fine with me. Learned something.

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

It's not the only one. In Portuguese, the names of Monday .. Friday are literally "second .. sixth fair [day]", with Saturday and Sunday being "sábado" (sabbath) and "domingo" (lord's day).

I'm not sure which other countries follow the convention, but it's the numbering used in the Bible so I would be surprised if there aren't others.

In Indonesia looks like Sunday is taken from Portuguese name with modifications: Domingo - Mingo - Minggu

In Hebrew the weekdays are named "First", "Second", etc. making "Shabbat" ie Saturday, the last day of the week.

This is along the same general idea as the Persian/Farsi day names, you've got Jummah which is the western Friday (Islamic day of rest), then the rest of the days are named shanbe, yakshanbe, doshanbe, sehshanbe, and so on.

shanbe = day (first day of the week after Jummah)

yak = one

do = two

seh = three

Literally just day one, day two, day three.

You count upwards in day number until you reach six, then it's Jummah again and it resets.

The city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan being part of the historical extent of the Persian empire and language is literally just named second day.

The same roughly applies to Arabic: Sunday (derived from one) to Thursday (derived from five).

The word for Friday seems to be derived from “gathering” (probably due to weekly Islamic mass) and Saturday seems to derived from “sleep” (?).

> the rest of the world uses 24hrs, however 12h _sometimes_ is used conversationally;

Here in Norway we use 24 hours when writing; but we use 12 hour system when speaking - if that makes any sense?

I.e. we would say: "Vi spiser middag klokka fem (5)" [We eat dinner at five o'clock]; but we'd write it with 17 typically. We never use the terms AM/PM but can occasionally specify daytime/nighttime if it's uncertain which of the two we are talking about. I.e. "Jeg kom hjem fra jobb klokka fem (5) om morgenen" [I came home from work at five in the morning].

I guess that's what he meant by "sometimes conversationally"?

It could be, but since it could also be interpreted as sometimes used, I wrote a comment to say that we use the 12 hour system exclusively when we speak about time, and the 24 hour system for written purposes. Perhaps that's what he meant, but I'm not sure...

Both of your first points are factually incorrect - I’d have to imagine some bubble-bias involved, but many countries aside from the US use the 12 hour clock and start their calendars on Sunday.

I did say "per my knowledge" so my point stands :)

There was a more significant effort to decimalise time (and the calendar to some extent) after the French Revolution, along with introducing the metric system everywhere. People hated it and they eventually switched back. A bit of related trivia is that France only accepted the Greenwich Meridian on maps/charts on the condition that the international meridian conference (of 1884) also concluded that the convened nations also resolved that decimal time was a good idea and they should work towards it.

>- Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Does anyone know why? This has always seemed a bit weird to me. I mean the US is a fairly religious country and it's pretty much known to anyone that Sunday is the 7th day in Christianity?

And on the first day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the first day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the first day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

edit: just looked it up. Apparently Sunday = Restday is a catholic thing and Jews / Muslims use Sunday as their first day!

How and why America switched as Christian nation I'm still not sure.

Sunday is still considered the first day in Christianity. Jesus rising on the first day led to Christians celebrating the resurrection on Sunday and it eventually eclipsing the Saturday Sabbath. Also much of Latin America and Southern Africa also consider Sunday the first day of the week.

Mhh, yes. It seems you're right. Saturday is the day God rested supposedly?

Wow it really hasn't stuck. I stand corrected.

Ignoring the religious angle entirely, I've always thought it was weird that people consider Monday the first day of the week, because to me, Sunday and Saturday are at either "end" of the week, hence they are called "weekend" days.

If Monday is day 1, then Saturday is day 6 and Sunday is day 7, so Saturday is no longer a weekend.

(Yes, I know that you can argue it a different way such that it still makes sense with Monday as the first day of the week. But it just feels "wrong" to me, probably because I lived the first 15-20 years of my life without even knowing that anyone else didn't consider Sunday to be the first day of the week. Stuff you grow up with is hard to change.)

(Relatedly, no matter how hard I try, Celsius degrees never feel natural to me. Ditto for kilograms when talking about how much a human weighs. I've managed to get myself comfortable with meters and liters, at least, though I still sometimes have to "translate" in my head for things to make sense to me.)

At any rate, I do wonder when this difference solidified. Was Monday considered the first day of the week in western Europe during the period when Europe was colonizing pre-United-States? If so, when and why did the US (or colonists in the pre-US) switch to Sunday?

The argument I’ve heard against this is that Sunday is a week”end” day, not a week “start” day - here interpreting “end” as “terminator” rather than something like “bookend”

It is more logical for Monday to be first, because it comes right after end of the last week - week-end. The last two days are weekend - end of the week.

In Hebrew the days of the week are named numerically: first day, second day etc. Sunday is the first day of the week in israel. Saturday, the last day of the Hebrew week is the only one not named numerically, it’s called sabbath.


Sunday is religiously the first day of the week (the Lord rises on “the first day of the week…” (John)).

It has become the “last day” only because people rest after their jobs (i.e. at the end of the “week”).

But conceptually, it is still the first day. It is indeed the First day of the new creation (Redemption).

> - US (and maybe one or two English-speaking countries) are the only ones using 12h time, the rest of the world uses 24hrs, however 12h _sometimes_ is used conversationally;

For German speaking countries: rather always#. In fact, you don't even say 3 PM. Just "drei". I think everything from 8 AM to 7 PM is considered "business hours" - and everything else needs clarification ("4 in the morning").

And we call 0:00 "12 Uhr Mitternacht" as well, I think nobody says "0 Uhr". But at least writing it down makes sense.

# Nobody I knows really uses "15 Uhr" to say 3 PM (people might sometimes do, but I never hear it, it sounds wrong, maybe "nerdy")

I live in Germany and I have the exact opposit experience from everything you just said. the only people that use "drei" or "halb fünf" etc. are those one generation older than me, and everyone says "null Uhr" or "vierundzwanzig Uhr" (depending on which day-crossing you're referring to), I have honestly never before heard the phrase "12 Uhr Mitternacht". "Die Party geht bis 24 Uhr" oder "..bis 0 Uhr". Nobody says "die Party geht bis 12 Uhr Mitternacht", do they?

I guess it depends on where you live exactly in D/A/CH shrug

I guess I am from (and work with) the previous generation.

I haven't used "Die Party geht bis..."# for almost a decade now, that might be a hint.

#and my "parties" never ended before midnight for more than 2 decades now.


I believe the old Sega Dreamcast used this as its standard time in the menu system. Maybe that was for the online service. I would love to move to something like that permanently. Little ambiguity as to when people could meet across time zones.

Yeah, that was the idea, they invented it to make things easier for people around the world communicating over the Internet. They even launched a series of watches which displayed Swatch time. It was so cool, too bad it never took off :(

It was only Phantasy Star Online that used Beats.

It's not obvious why a new system is needed. UTC, TAI, or unix-time are sufficient.

The primary defect I see in the SIT proposal is that it isn't obviously based on the SI, but rather tied to the Earth. Defining a new unit that is 86.4 seconds long feels troublesome for everyone.

I don't see what makes the second less tied to the Earth than the day. The SI system is for scientific purposes, it doesn't have units important for civil purposes like liters. If you were to completely redefine civil timekeeping (good luck!), the day feels like a better unit to focus on.

Or, more closely, Julian day number.

Yeah, I played around with a decimal time: https://kybernetikos.github.io/UIT/ but eventually realised that my seconds, minutes and hour equivalents were just names for some of the decimal places of the Julian day number.

Wow, it used decimal time? That was always a bad idea - being indivisible by multiples of 3.

> US (and maybe one or two English-speaking countries) are the only ones using 12h time, the rest of the world uses 24hrs, however 12h _sometimes_ is used conversationally;

Maybe this is because I grew up when analog clocks were common, but it would feel extremely weird to say “15 o’clock” in speech instead of “3pm”. Even though it’s written down as 15.

I think you’re right that younger generations that grew up with digital are more likely to answer “fifteen oh seven” when you ask the time whereas I’d be more likely to read the same time and say “ten past three”

(Slovenian background)

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Not correct, as others have pointed out. Regardless, why is it more or less logical for any particular day to be considered the start of the week? Hell, it seems that even in several countries that use Monday as the first day of the week, the names of the day reflect that Monday is the second day of the week!

I personally like Sunday and Saturday to be the opposite ends of the week. Sunday and Saturday are both considered rest days for the most part, and I think rest days are a good way to both start and finish your week. But I recognize that there's still really no logical basis for this; it's just what I grew up with so it "feels right". Just as those of you who grew up in a Monday-indexed week are used to it, so that "feels right" to you.

Do you consider Sunday to be part of the weekend?

Why not? The head and the tail are both ends.

Nit: foone uses they/them pronouns and has previously expressed some displeasure with the way they get misgendered when their posts hit hacker news. Queer folks seem to agree that if you aren’t sure what someone’s pronouns are, they/them is a good default (only until they tell you or you find out the correct pronouns).

As a non-binary person myself I always find it interesting when people assume he/him for every random internet commenter. Happens on HN a lot.

Not sure why this got flagged.

Anyways, I find it’s best to use they/them pronouns (or rather remain gender/pronoun neutral) when referring to people on the internet, unless their pronouns are obvious.

> Also, for those interested, look up Swatch time invented in late 90s and touted as more logical replacement of the mess that we have.

There is Tranquility Calendar[1] that was proposed sometime back:

- Starts at the time when man landed on Moon. (Tranquility base)

- 1 year = 13 months each of 28 days (13*4 = 364) + 1 Armstrong day

- Exactly 4 week months.

Back in 2019, (50th year of moon landing) I happened to build a web representation of the same[2].

[1] https://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/48c6d4c3d54cf

[2] https://anoopelias.github.io/tranquility-calendar/

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

No, in Israel Sunday is the first day of the week too, because the weekend is Friday-Saturday (Shabbath). In Hebrew, though, the week days are named rather simply - except for Sabbath, they are just "Day 1" (Sunday), ..., "Day 6" (Friday). OTOH, that's exactly how they were numbered in the Bible, so...

Yes. It should end with “…and this is the best system we’ve found, because all other ones were ditched for being too complicated.”

Sunday is the first day of the week in crontab.

First index in the array, 0.

Sunday is the last day of the week in crontab.

Last index in the array, 7.

7 also resolves to Sunday, but doesn't take away from the fact that the first index [0] is Sunday.

In Denmark we use 24h, but we call them by their 12h equivalent, e.g. "15:15" is "a quarter past three". However, you could also say: "It's now 21 30" to signify half past nine. Or some people would say: "It's half 10". Okay, having 24h clocks don't make it easier it seems.

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Just adding to the rest of the responses but Japan also has a very... contrived relationship with what counts as "the beginning of the week" and most people would say Sunday is that day.

N=1: No, Monday is that day and I believe I'm majority, despite many Japanese calendars are beginning with Sunday

I can only talk about the people I personally know and I've asked this question myself (because it's funny and interesting from a cultural perspective) and most people I asked said "Sunday", although as I said it's not set in stone.

Do you work at big tech in Japan? I suspect that people around you tend to think as international (read: US, in Japan) way.

> however 12h _sometimes_ is used conversationally;

That happens in Portuguese (brazilian, at least). Digital clocks go through 0-23 hours, but the second half is _sometimes_ named as 1-11 afternoon/night (whatever fits your taste). Hour 0 is never referred to as 12, though: it's always 0 or "half night"

> "half night"

Minor nit, but probably important since the equivalent vocabule exists in English: "midnight".

true that. Thanks

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

There's one other country in particular that firmly designates Saturday as the seventh day of the week: Israel. (Canada, Japan and Brazil also use Sunday as the first day of the week.)

I'm not religious, but I was raised Seventh-day Adventist, which worships on the seventh day, which for the past couple millennia has been Saturday. There is no end to conspiracy theories in the church about the seventh day of the week being designated as Sunday and how this (and particularly the compulsion to worship on Sunday instead of Saturday) is a sign of the end times.

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

I think Israel, and Jews in general consider Sunday the first day of the week.

Hopefully the Aliens will leave the planet before the discussion gets to G11n...

"The Problem with Time & Timezones" - https://youtu.be/-5wpm-gesOY


>* - US (and maybe one or two English-speaking countries) are the only ones using 12h time, the rest of the world uses 24hrs, however 12h _sometimes_ is used conversationally;*

I think most countries use 12h time casually (conversationally and so on), but most understand 24h time - and it's used officially (e.g. in state communications) in many. It's in the US though that people often need it explained.

In Arabic, Sunday is Ahad (first) Monday is Ithnain (second) and so on until Friday which is Jum’a (gathering) and Sabit (comes from Sabbath I think?) as Saturday.

So the US is not the only country that considers Sunday to be the first day, etymologically speaking. I think the first day in the Middle East is Saturday because people work on that day (on Friday is a day off, unless things changed since the 70s)

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Many Arabic countries have the weekend on Friday and Saturday and work on Sunday. I think they probably all start the week on Sunday for this reason. No idea why the US does too though!

Living in Brazil, I always heard that Sunday is the first day of the week. Accordingly, we do name most of the week days by number, sort of. Monday is ”Segunda-feira”, which a literal translation would be “Second fair”. The “Third fair, Fourth fair, Fifth fair, Sixth-fair”.

just fyi the author's pronouns are they/them ( they're in their twitter bio )

> US (and maybe one or two English-speaking countries) are the only ones using 12h time, the rest of the world uses 24hrs, however 12h _sometimes_ is used

India uses 12h time (except in military talk; & railway timetable display boards) in day to day life. I have never heard in 29 years somebody using 15 as 3, or 20 as 8pm. Even till few years ago, atound 2008, flights times at Delhi Airport too were displayed in 12h, on mechanical card spinner display board (where a card with letter falls & next one comes, on a roll until desired letter comes). Seeing that board as a kid was highlight of my childhood trips to airport.rt.

Israel (where I spend several months/year) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week. The workweek is Sunday through Thursday.

Weekend is Friday and Saturday. I suspect many Islamic countries are the same way.

Saudi Arabia used to have Thursday and Friday as weekend. They changed that recently (2013) to Friday and Saturday, because that gives them a bigger overlap with the rest of the world, which is good for business.

I had no clue, if the work week is Sunday though Thursday, it makes perfect sense. Learned something new today :)

> Also, for those interested, look up Swatch time invented in late 90s and touted as more logical replacement of the mess that we have.

Swatch Time is just a rebranding of French Revolutionary decimal time displaying the hour number next to the minute. It was introduced a bit before the metric system in 1793 but was made optional in 1795 and finally dropped in 1806. Swatch has always been extremely good at marketing but I don’t like crediting a corporation for something they didn’t invent.

- Sunday is the first day of the week (even by name, literally the first day) in Israel/Hebrew.

- In Germany we use the 12h format in day to day conversation

- Swatch time was so cool when I was a teenager

Over here in Sri Lanka:

1) I've seen calendars with both starting days (Sunday/Monday). Anecdotally, calendars with Sunday as the first day seemed to be more popular when I was a kid; now, calendars with Monday as the first day seem to be more common.

2) The 12-hour system is far more popular here than the 24-hour system. Not that we don't use it, but in my experience, 24-hour tends to be mainly used in professional settings; 12-hour is used essentially everywhere else.

Colloquially, lot of places use 12h - it's always "we're going to the restaurant at 8", never "at 20" or "at 20:00", at least in the countries I've lived or visited. But officially it's still 24h - which may be more confusing or less confusing, depending on your point of view.

And times (with timezones, and leap seconds, and DST, and so on) add another level of fun to it.

There are certainly countries where a translation of "16 o'clock" or similar is the default way to say that time.

France is one I'm familiar with.

In Britain, people reading out an important time presented in 24h format (like when discussing booking a flight) will usually read it out as fifteen thirty etc.

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

In Brazil, I think most people consider Sunday the first the of the week, in Portuguese the days of the week sound like ordinal numbers, Monday sounds like 2nd, Tuesday sounds 3rd, and so on. So it's pretty logical to consider Sunday the first day of the week.

I don't know that we necessarily consider Sunday first in any way except in the default / traditional presentation of weeks in calendars -- which is to say, it's a visual thing but not something that seems to impact work or life in any meaningful sense. I think pretty much all calendaring programs can show Monday as the first day if you prefer.

The Swatch time is a variation on the fractional day. Astronomers use it, with .00 being noon and .50 being midnight. You can extend it to any precision you like, 1/100,000th of a day makes for a good 'decimal second.'

I like knowing what percentage of the day is over, a friend of mine says it'd drive her crazy knowing exactly how much time gets wasted.

Why does midnight matter? And since we don’t use local noon, why does noon matter?

It matters in the astronomer's case (which does use local noon) because that's when they do their work. For the version where .00 is midnight in the local time zone, well... it's how we live our lives! I'd argue the week is more important than the months for the same reason.

> May be the author got tired (or whatever he took started to wear off)

Reading through to the last bits I was foreseeing the launch of a specific space faring vehicle except it would have failed in some way because of non-metric units (purposefully not saying of which kind) thus closing by leaving a loose thread up another level of insanity.

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

In a few EU countries people have started implying Sunday could somehow be the start (even though they are protestant societies! Makes no sense), so I think the US is leaking lunacy to the rest of the world.

Not just the US, it's also present in at least part of catholic Europe: in Portugal Monday is explicitly called "Second Market" (Segunda-Feira).

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Where I live we are taught that Monday is the first day of the week, yet most calendars start on Sunday. It's the sort of question you ask your teachers at school and nobody knows how to answer.

What is the advantage of adopting any of those, other than being a bit more in sync with other countries? None of them imply anything other than semantic difference, there is very little advantage and a lot of pain if we were to adopt those "standards".

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

First day of the working week is Sunday in Nepal. I assume they consider Sunday the start of the week, but I'm not Nepalese. This is just a random fact I remember from visiting.

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Brazil does the same as seemingly do Grece and Japan.

Also, in Portuguese, Monday is _segunda-feira_ which roughly translates as second-day.

Israel also starts the week on Sunday, in keeping with Saturday being the Jewish end of week sabbath.

In Hebrew the days of the week don't really have names. They are simply called (direct translation here) "first day" "second day" etc. Except for Saturday which is called "Shabbat" instead of "seventh day".

All of Christianity puts Sunday as the first day, as does the calendar of Judaism.

Saturday as the Jewish Sabbath, Sunday as the ‘the Lord’s day” in Christianity.

Matthew 28:1

The Resurrection

[1] Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

"Tuesday" in Russian is "vtornik", which is derived from "second". "Thursday" is "chetverg", which is a variation of "four".

So, no, not all Christianity.

The start of the Russian week was Sunday until the Soviets tried to stamp out Sunday.

The current date order is still from 1940, when the state was opposed to Christianity.


That's an odd article.

"Nedelya" doesn't refer to the first day of the week, at least not now. It means is "week". I can see how it may have meant "do-nothing" and also refer to the rest day, but it doesn't place it at the front of the week.

Monday (ponedelnik) splits into "po" and "nedelya". "Po" is a repetition indicator, not "after", so it's more of something that happens every week.

As I've said - Tuesday is "2nd day", Thursday is "4rd day" and Friday is "5th" (pyatnitca - pyat - five). So 3 days out of 7 point at the start of the week being Monday. These names date to the ancient times, not something Soviets invented.

Wednesday ("sreda") does mean "middle day", but it refers to the middle of the work week, excluding Saturday and Sunday, which are named after Christian events and (likely) extended the original 5-day week.

So if you are to argue that a week that has 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th days literally spelled out starts on its 7th day, the only explanation would be that Russians used 0-based indexing for the week days. Which is alright with me even if somewhat far-fetched.

PS. Also, the calendar reform was not a move against the religion, but because Russia Empire was literally 13 days behind the rest of the world, which was not very convenient.


"... 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th ..." should read "... 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th..."

Thanks for the link. It had another interesting fact:

> In 1978, the UN recommended that Monday be made the first day of the week in most countries. It was established in 1988, according to ISO 8601, an international standard for exchange and communication of date and time-related data.

I’m really curious about why the UN made that decision. Is this the primary reason so many countries now consider Monday the first day?

The US, Canada, China, Japan and most of South America. Oh. And the Phillipines consider Sunday the beginning of the week. And someone just shouted at me that Israel considers Sunday the beginning of the week, but that seems unlikely to me.

What’s unlikely about that? The Jewish seventh‐day Sabbath is literally the founding principle of the seven‐day week.

I'd love to hear the logic of why Monday should be the first day of the week.

Well, since Saturday and Sunday are called "weekEND", so it logically follows that Monday is a "week start". Most people think about it like this: Monday is a start of a new work-week, and then you get two days of rest at the end of the week.

But there are two ends of any line, one on each side. Not two ends, both of which are on the same side.

Exactly. A sausage has two ends, the beginning end and the end end, and so shall the week

Then it'd be called "weekends", not "weekend".

We don’t call it “nights” even though one is split over two days (before midnight and after).

Just call it "evening" if it's before midnight. That way you get four nicely subdivided periods.

00-06 - night

06-12 - morning

12-18 - afternoon

18-24 - evening

Would need to refactor the name of "midnight" tho to minimize confusion. But if we use it as a starting point to count hours in a day from, it doesn't make sense to simultaneously designate it as a middle of anything.

(BTW, such subdivision is actually common in many places of the world.)

I feel we've just rediscovered why appeals to grammar[0] don't actually solve much of anything. (Not saying you're appealing to grammar, just that grammar is generally not that useful for discerning... anything really.)

Anyway, to be a bit more substantive: What really baked my noodle when I was younger is the fact that the seasons and the night/day cycle are much more disconnected than it appears when you live on Earth. Of course, it makes sense when you understand the tilt/rotation thing, but still... it really weirds me out sometimes.

[0] English in this case, but any language, really.

That only applies to things that are not obviously oriented. No one would try to argue that when they said "we'll do a recap at the end of meetings", what they meant is both the start and the end. This is not ambiguous at all and I don't even believe you believe in this argument.

Well I’d suggest the “obvious” orientation is actually the effect of what you believe the words to mean, not the cause.

This is what I was taught, I do indeed think it’s pretty silly, but it wouldn’t even be in the top 100 weirdest things about our language/culture/norms “space.” We’re surrounded by idiosyncrasies!

In a ring buffer, you have a start and an end pointer, not two end pointers.

If we think of it like iterators in C++, though, begin() is Monday, and end() is the next Monday.

If Saturday is weekend, then Sunday is one-past-the-end. ;)

One-past-the-end is the way.

Mostly because Saturday and Sunday are collectively known as the weekend and it doesn't make a lot of sense to start the week in the middle of what everyone agrees is the end of the week.

Every end is a new beginning, according to an old aphorism.

This would imply that a Weekend and a Weekbegin could easily coincide.

I think it's a bit naive to expect sense from anything related to dates and times at this point. It's all just accumulated history, and historically, Sunday has always been the first day of the week, no matter what people today think about it.

> everyone agrees

Not everyone, Israel has has Friday and Saturday off.

Is Sunday a work day in Israel?

Usually, yes.

What I find interesting is that many Americans consider themselves Christians and that will influence their decisions. So one argument can be made from that point of view (I'm not religious myself).

In the Bible it says God designated the last day of the week as a day of rest. From a Christian point of view, it would make sense that Sunday is the last day of the week, as it is the official day of rest. Otherwise they disrespect the Bible and skip the "real" day of rest.

I'm not religious or American, so from my relatively objective view it seems as if the people from the majority religion has ignored their holy book.

This misunderstanding is probably where the idea that Monday is the first day of the week came from. Biblically, Saturday is the Sabbath, the last day of the week. But early Christians came together before and after work on the first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the dead, which is explicitly the day after tue Sabbath. Eventually that day was also made a free day amd added to the weekend. But it was always the first day of the week until ISO redefined it.

If you’re interested… the reason Christians worship on Sunday is because Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. It wasn’t an immediate thing as at first almost all Christians were Jewish and continued the seventh day day of rest and gathering for worship.

No, the biblical day of rest is the Sabbath, the Saturday. The fact that most Christians keep the first day of the week instead of the last day is because Jesus rose from death on the first day of the week.

Yet the word "Sabbath" refers to different things to different Christians.

Consider the old nursery rhyme, Monday's Child, which ends with

Friday's child is loving and giving / Saturday's child works hard for a living. / And the child born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe, good and gay.

I'm not familiar with that nursery rhyme, but it sounds like it's based on the same misunderstanding that lead to ISO 8601.

I’m actually really interested in this. Clearly in Jesus’s time the Hebrew week went Sunday–Saturday. That definition remained at least for long enough to make into Ecclesiastical Latin and further into, e.g., Portuguese (segunda-feira, etc.). So why does ISO 8601 go Monday–Sunday? Was it codifying existing practice in Europe? When did that practice begin? Was America colonized before Europe switched to Monday–Sunday, or is America’s Sunday–Saturday a fundamentalist reversion to something more Biblically accurate?

I live in Europe and I never learned anything other than that Sunday is the first day of the week. It's only very recently that I'm starting to notice an insistence that Monday is the first day. From my perspective, ISO 8601 seems to be the cause of that, and having an ISO standard on your side is certainly strengthening that position, but I think it's simply wrong.

Of course ISO 8601 didn't just drop out of thin air, but what caused it? I think it's a misunderstanding mixed with ignorance. Ignorance of the fact that the Jewish Sabbath, referred to everywhere in the Bible, is on Saturday, combined with people reading in the Ten Commandments about observing the Sabbath on the last day of the week and associating that with their own church attendance on Sunday, which they then conclude must be the last day of the week.

A more thorough reading of the Bible would have set them straight, as would some knowledge about history or other religions.

I actually used to think that Monday as the first day of the week was just a corporate thing. I first noticed it when I started working and work agendas were surprisingly insistent on starting on Monday. But I figured that was because the weekend is meaningless to the work week, so why not just lump it all together at the end? And then I learned about ISO 8601 and was completely flabbergasted that this was an official standard.

Another commenter posted a source that mentions in passing that ISO 8601 was the result of a 1978 UN declaration that Monday should be the first day of the week. Now I wonder where that came from!

I think it's a bit simplistic to call it a "misunderstanding." There are large swaths of Christianity that refer to Sunday as the Sabbath.


You’re not wrong that “the Sabbath day” has sometimes been used by Christians to refer to Sunday, but the context of this thread is that a comment claimed that calling Sunday the first day of the week is inconsistent with the Bible, and that’s plainly not true.

> From a Christian point of view, it would make sense that Sunday is the last day of the week, as it is the official day of rest.

Depends on the Christian. If you mean the Puritans, from whom present-day prescriptions (such as no or limited alcohol sales on Sunday) derive, you may be on to something. If you mean the Sabbatarians, no doubt they have an explanation, but I don't know it. If you mean a Seventh-Day Adventist, you'd be wrong, because they still hold to Saturday as the seventh-day and the sabbath. If you mean a Catholic or one from another denomination, the Catholic catechism teaches that Sunday is the fulfillment of the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath, and most other denominations understand similarly.

Well, yeah, the Sabbath should be Saturday. That doesn't mean we can't have Sunday be the day we go to church.

It’s totally arbitrary (as well as totally immaterial) whether the week starts on Sunday or Monday (or any other day for that matter). The fact that the US does it differently than many other countries really isn’t a big deal. Your downvotes show the whole bike shedding nature of the issue. The debate is so contentious because the stakes are so low.

I'm honestly not sure what "bike shedding" is but numerical values for days of the week very much count when building any software containing calendars (or any dates really) to make sure it works properly in different geographic regions.

Congratulations! You are one of today’s lucky 10,000


Because Saturday and Sunday are the weekEND.

edit: lol, too slow

I'd love to hear the logic of why Monday should NOT be the first day of the week.

Historical reasons. Sunday has always been the first day of the week. Because yet another religion than the 4 mentioned before explicitly defines Saturday as the last day of the week, and everybody has always gone along with that. Probably because it was always like that anyway.

The recent official standardisation of Monday to be the first day of the week was a mistake.

Silly reason, but I like that Sunday being the first day keeps the week symmetric. You have the first and last day of the week being days off (in most places), and you have Wednesday in the middle. It's not very logical, but neither is any part of our calendar system.

Because weekENDs. There are two ends, one at the beginning (Sunday) and one at the end (Saturday).

I have never heard anyone say "have a nice weekends".

Because then the middle of the week is Thursday instead of Wednesday. ;)

Easy to solve: Thursday is the middle of the week, Wednesday is the middle of the workweek.

In Chinese, Monday is 星期一 (=1st in week).

And the months are numbered (January = "first month"),

Who are we to argue with the people who have finally gotten an act together to number it properly?[1]

[1]: alright, yes, Sunday is still the odd one out and doesn't have a number.

Because Saturday and Sunday are the weekend.

Correct. Sunday is the starting end of the week and Saturday is then stopping end of the week.

Or you just say, Sunday is the end of the week and Monday that start of the next one. Funnily enough this is the first time I've heard as Sunday as the first day of the week. I'm from Germany where Monday is the first day and Sunday the last.

This also coincides with the work week where the first workday is Monday, then the weekend ends the week and a new week begins with Monday.

Well, most people say Saturday is the weekend.

> This is absolutely hilarious

Not absolutely, it could be even more hilarious, if PM/AM switches happened at 11:00 and 23:00, not at 12:00 and 00:00. Or even better, the switch could ignore seasonal timezone shift.

Sunday is the first day of the week in Israel, not just on paper but very much in practice. I know this because Israelis I worked with will be unavailable on Friday but they will start emailing you Sunday morning.

Perhaps you mean 24h _sometimes_ is used conversationally!

My devices all show 12h too.

The thing is most people know if it means the evening or morning.

But when programming, and dealing with times from all over the shop - please show me 24h clocks!

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

Japan does too; I blame the American occupation (and plenty of other illogical things).


I always felt that DST was invented to prevent people from realizing that they are forced to wake up and get out of the house before dawn during the winter. It would literally alienate people from work life.

Winter time is "real time". Summer time is when DST takes effect.

> - Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

I assume Israel must too since shabbat, the seventh day of rest, is Saturday.

>despite being long form, fits Twitter format very well

It actually reminded me of, and made me sad for the days of the old internet. I don't think this should be on twitter but it's own site

I picked 3 random countries and 2/3 of them had calendars starting with Sunday.

Calendars starting with Sunday: Nambia, Trinidad and Tobago. Calendars starting with Monday: Benin.

>Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week

Sunday is the first day of the week in much of the middle east

I had a hell of a time trying to find a pill planner that didn't start on Sunday. I was ready to 3D print one when I found one that's circular.

> Per my knowledge US is the only country which stubbornly (and illogically) considers Sunday to be the first day of the week;

What do you mean by this? I mean, what behaviors do US people exhibit to show this to be true?

I was born in the US and have lived here almost my entire life. I consider Monday to be the first day of the week, and I haven't seen anything in US culture to indicate that other people disagree or behave otherwise (except for the default behavior in some calendar apps in the US locale).

Printing all calendars and design all calendar software with Sunday in the first column is a big clue that most Americans consider Sunday the start of the week.

In Europe, printed calendars and apps have Monday in the first column.

Being European, I prefer "Sunday in column 1" calendars.

Not for religious reasons or because I consider Sunday to actually be the first day of the week, but for practical reasons: It gives me a clearer understanding of the workweek. It moves Wednesday (in my language called "middle of the week") into the week's center. It deemphasizes the weekend for planning (and thus for planning work), making them better rest days.


Sunday is also the first day of the week in Canada (actually a separate country from the US despite appearances).

Why is it illogical to have Sunday be the first day of the week? Maybe Saturday is logically the first day of the week since nobody in their right minds would want a work day (assuming a 5 day work Week) to be the first day. Like eating dessert first, starting the week with a day off just makes logical sense.

Why? One word: weekEND

Except for Friday-Saturday is the weekend in quite a few countries especially islamic ones. Israel also has Friday-Saturday weekends to make observing the Sabbath easier. There may be other exceptions as well.

Which end?

The one at the end of the week, and not the start.

Maybe it is both ends. Like book ends.

But then surely a consecutive Saturday and Sunday would be weekends rather than a single weekend?

The concept of a weekend is a recent development that I don’t think really corresponds to what the first day of the week is (which was conceived of as Sunday for thousands of years before the weekend was invented).

When the weekend was invented, Sunday as the sabbath was still a real thing for many people. I have to wonder if originally only Saturday was conceived as the weekend, followed by the week start and sabbath of Sunday. Then, as Sunday became secularized, the weekend was extended to include Sunday.

I saw someone wearing a Swatch Time t-shirt today!

just think if he had to explain how the date for easter is calculated

> May be the author got tired (or whatever he took started to wear off)

The author uses they/them pronouns. And more likely their ADHD episode started to wear down, rather than something they took started to wear off.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact