The Corner


Seasons (and Decades) End When You Want Them To

I’m a bit late with this, and my admiration for Kat Timpf makes me reluctant to take issue with her on anything, but when she declares that fall absolutely, definitely begins at the equinox, no debate allowed, because the government says so, I think she might have to turn in her libertarian card.

Here’s the thing: As I wrote nearly a decade ago, there is no single, fixed method for partitioning the year into seasons. They don’t even need to be three months apiece if you don’t want them to. When it’s cold, it’s winter, when it’s warm, it’s summer, and in between, it’s spring or fall — draw the lines whenever works for you. Minnesotans like to say that they have two seasons: winter and July (or “winter and road construction,” and there are many other variations). Why should the same schedule for seasonal change govern Minnesota and Florida?

On a similar note, I notice that we are currently in a year ending in 9, which means that the calendar pedants are about to start reminding everyone that a new decade doesn’t really start until the end of next year. That’s nonsense too. The basis of this assertion seems to be that there was no year 0, so if we decide that decades must end in a 9 year, then the first decade (1 a.d. to 9 a.d.) will be only nine years long.

But so what? Surely there can be no more basic unit of time than the day, yet every year we have one 25-hour day and one 23-hour day, and no one freaks out over that (well, some people do). The same goes for years: Sometimes they are 365 days and sometimes 366 (not to mention a one-time correction in 1752, which had only 355 days). So why all the fuss over a single nine-year decade that’s two millennia in the past? People have been quibbling for ages over when decades and centuries start, but there’s no “officially” or “technically” about it, and the convenient, intuitive, familiar answer is just as good as any other.


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