US vs. European Date Notation

Paul Hill pHill at
Wed Feb 10 21:24:04 UTC 1999

David Keegel wrote:

> Let me get this straight.
> Are you saying that "10/2/99" (or "2/9/99" for US folks) is a "word"???

I'd say a date is a phrase.  "Ten" is a word, "The 10th of February Nineteen hundred
and ninety nine", "February the 9th Nineteen hundred and ninety nine" and
"October the 30th in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and fifty nine" are

BTW, It was nice that you included the international dateline calculation in your
example, after all this is the timezone list.

> David, who wishes that the world would leave behind historical baggage,
> and standardise on ISO-8601 YYYY-MM-DD notation before the year 2000.

It always brings a smile to my face when I read his 'note to American readers' on his
web page.  People who want to impose regular and rational usage on the spoken
language have such an up-hill battle, especially when we speak such a mutt of a
language. English is so darn inconsistent, just in the date phrase we can recognize
Arabic, Early Christen and Roman influences and then if we added the name of the day
of week we can throw in another influence.  But maybe we should take up that
discussion on the calendar mailing list instead of this timezone mailing list. (Could
someone please send me the address for that list).

I'll stop using analogue watches with 12 numbers on them when meetings, travel time
between work and home, and expected arrival times of friends coming over for dinner,
has to be timed closer than the few minute resolution that comes from a quick glance
at a watch or wall clock. I might stop saying and writing things like "a quarter to
three in the afternoon", or 2:45 PM, the day Big Ben gets a 24-hour digital display.
I'll also consider never saying GMT again and going with UTC, when the BBC World
Service stops saying "Greenwich Mean Time" (just to name one very common example of
the term GMT which is still in use.)

Don't get me wrong ISO 8601 has its place, and I'm glad it exists and I'll use it
where appropriate, but suggesting we use it as a standard for everything is maybe a
little Quixotic.

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