Dum Pendebat Filius

A sniff in the kortevar, that what you cry for, yeled? A prert up the cull, a prang on the dumpendebat?

All the remenaunt xxx and j

How do you remember which months have how many days, readers? Do you use some version of the mnemonic device that most English-speakers learned as children:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except for February alone.

There seem to be about eight zillion variations of this poem floating around. It dates back to the fifteenth century, believe it or not. From “Harley MS 2341″ (part of a collection held by the British Museum):

Thirti dayes hath Nouembir,
April, June, and Septembir;
Of xxviij is but oon,
And all the remenaunt xxx and j.

One of my Arabic teachers, who was from Syria, taught me a non-linguistic mnemonic device:

Make a fist with one of your hands. Look at the back of your fist. Use the index finger of your other hand to tap the top of each knuckle and the gap between each knuckle. (It doesn’t matter whether you start from the left or the right.) January = knuckle. February = gap. March = knuckle. And so forth. When you get to the last knuckle (July), tap it again (August) and start back in the opposite direction (September = gap). The knuckles are 31-day months; the gaps are not. (You’re just expected to remember about February being 28/29.)

I don’t remember whether he said this device was known to all Arabic speakers, or if it was a Syrian thing, or if it was just a neat trick somebody happened to show him. Has anybody else ever heard of this?

Filed under: Language by dumpendebat at 2005/10/24 - 21:26

5 Comments »

  1. lycfyg-LQ:

    Thirty days have September.
    April, June and November.
    All the rest have thirty-one.
    Except for the Clintons, who want 32 terms as president.

  2. Hanque:

    My elderly mom taught me the trick to use one’s hand as a calendar a year or two ago. I’ll ask her today when and how she learned it. Prior to that I’ve always managed to look like an ass near the last day of the month whenever someone asks me what the date is.

  3. 3Card:

    My mom taught me the knuckle trick when I was young…said she learned it from her mom.

  4. Hanque:

    I talked with my mom about this one. She doesn’t remember teaching this trick to me. It appears I’m a greater ass than previously thought.

  5. dumpendebat:

    Well, at least we have determined that it definitely isn’t an Arab or Syrian thing.

    I like Lycfyg’s poem, but I somehow doubt it’ll catch on.

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