Let’s Fix The (English) Alphabet And The Calendar!

1. Don’t take it seriously.
2. Take it as seriously as you want, but don’t hate on me.
3. I’m writing this for fun and not in an authoritative way and certainly not actually trying to change the alphabet or the calendar.

The Gregorian Calendar

Our calendar (Gregorian) is a mess. January has 31 days, February has 28 days, but once every 4 years it has 29 days, but then there’s an adjustment every hundred years, but then there’s an exception to that adjustment every 400 years, March has 31 days, April has 30, May has 31, June has 30, July has 31, but oh no the 31-not 31 pattern gets broken with August which has 31, September has 30, October has 31, November has 30, and December has 31.

How do we remember this? As kids, we’re taught some song, which I don’t remember. Or we’re taught the “knuckle trick”. If you make a fist, then starting with the index finger, we have “knuckle, dip, knuckle, dip, knuckle, dip, knuckle”. The knuckles are the months with 31 days. The dips are the months with fewer than 31 days. But the knuckle-dip pattern is 7 long, so if we start back on the index finger once we’ve finished the first set, we have a rule for the calendar. Anyway, I’m sure there’s a Wikipedia article on this.

But ever since I was a kid, I thought the calendar system we use was a bit crazy. Seven days a week is fine. In fact, kids are also often taught the rule that there are 52 weeks in a year. And that’s not a bad approximation for a 365 day year since $$52 \times 7 = 364$$

Now, suppose we wanted to get away from our crazy 31-not 31 days per month calendar system with twelve months. How could we do it without going too far away from what we currently have? Basic arithmetic to the rescue! The leap year craziness probably can’t be avoided if we want integer number of days. In fact, here’s a Wikipedia article about leap years.

So, let’s start with 365 days per year. We want to break up 365 into something that will allow us to make a calendar. So, what are the factors of 365? Well, $$365 = 5 \times 73$$ and both 5 and 73 are prime, thus that’s the prime factorization of 365. So, we could have 5 day weeks with 73 weeks per year. But this would be make a bit of a mess with our existing workweek / weekend schedule. In a five day week some weeks would have two days as “weekend” days, some weeks having no “weekends”, and some weeks having one day as a “weekend”. Also, since 73 is prime, making months becomes annoying as well.

So, let’s go to 364 days per year. We’ll figure out what to do with the 365th day later. Now, 364 can be factored as $$364 = 2\times 2\times 7\times 13$$
Which, if we look at it closely enough, can be rewritten as $$364 = 4\times 7\times 13$$ and that’s pretty dang convenient! This would mean 7 days per week, 4 weeks per month, for 13 months is 364 days per year! That works out splendidly with what we currently have! All we have to do is figure out what to do with the 365th day, the leap day, and come up with a name for the 13 month! The name for the 13 month is easy — Mananember, of course.

What’s an advantage of a 4,7,13 calendar with a floating day? First, every month has 28 days and every month looks exactly the same. If January 1st were a Tuesday, then the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd of every month is a Tuesday. We wouldn’t have to hunt through our calendar to figure out what day April 7th is. If January 1st is a Tuesday, then April 1st is a Tuesday, which makes April 8th a Tuesday. Hence April 7th is a Monday. Easy-peasy. Then there’s also no worry about dates for “monthly” budgets and pay cycles and wacky end of quarter accounting. Many people (in the US) get paid every two weeks. In the Mananian Calendar that would be twice a month and we’d know exactly which dates those are for every month. A simple and organized world we would have.

What do we do with the 365th day which is unaccounted for in the Mananian calendar? Don’t assign it to any month. Make it a “free” day. A global holiday called Manan’s Day. If January 1st were a Tuesday. Then we know that Mananember 28th is a Monday because January 28th is a Monday. Thus Manan’s day, the day after Mananember 28th would be a Tuesday. You’ll notice that in our current calendar, if January 1st is a Tuesday, then December 31st is a Tuesday in non-leap years.

What do we do for leap years? Well, make it another free day that comes after Manan’s Day!

Huzzah! No more calendar craziness!

But sadly, as original as I think I am, Wikipedia dashes my quest for originality: Calendar reform.

Maybe I’ll have more luck with Alphabet reform.

The English Alphabet

When learning the English alphabet, school children are taught to sing their ABCs to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle. The ordering of “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ” is, as far as I am concerned, arbitrary. I am sure there is a long historical evolution for why the ordering is the way it is, but whatever the logic, it is no longer immediately apparent.

We have two types of letters: the vowel, and the consonant. AEIOU fall into the category of vowels. All the other letters are consonants. And, of course, we have to have controversy with everything, no matter how trivial — Y is sometimes considered a hybrid.

In some languages, school children are taught that language’s alphabet as an organized progression of sounds. In fact, the names of the letters are their sounds. I’m not a scholar of linguistics, so I won’t try to jargon-drop in any meaningful way. But for the interested individual, “guttural consonants” could be a good search term to get started into the rabbit-hole that is the internet. In fact, let me get you started down that rabbit hole: look at Gujarati, a common language in some parts of India and a language I speak.

Anyway, the basic idea is to group letters together by sound progression. Here’s an example, and I’m sure a linguist would do a better job.

• UQWYIOAE
• PVBDTH
• CZGJKX
• SFLNMR

And stringing them together the alphabet could look like UQWYIOAEPVBDTHCZGJKXSFLNMR … doesn’t that roll right off the tongue? Just be happy I didn’t use the word “cunning” anywhere except in this sentence.

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