23 July 2010


When dates are written in number form, they confuse me. They didn't always, but they do now. In the genealogy world, we always write dates in this format: 4 Jan 1872. Sometimes the date is spelled out, like in formal reports. There is no ambiguity with this format because the month is spelled out in letters.

Americans, did you know we are pretty much the ONLY COUNTRY in the world who put the month first when writing our dates in a numerical form? For instance, if we wanted to talk about the above listed date, in America it would be 1/4/1872. Every where else would be 4/1/1872. At first this may seem confusing because you are so used to seeing the month first, but frankly it makes sense. In the European (and everywhere else) format, the smallest division (the day) is placed first, followed by the next smallest (the month), and then the largest (the year). It makes more sense that way. When America finally switches to the metric system (Hello logical way of measuring things!) we need to switch our date formatting as well. (I know that neither of these things will actually happen, but a girl can hope.)

Now, this may seem like a small thing since I live in America now and should be used to the totally backwards way that we list our dates, but because I deal with quite a bit of work from European agents, I am frequently having to reorient myself and figure out which system I'm using and which system the agent was using. This going back and forth makes me perpetually confused. When I have the option (like when I'm writing a check) I write the date in genealogical format. When I am forced to put in numbers, I always have to think about the way my birth date is written so that I can remember whether the month goes first or second.

My life is hard.


Saskia said...

I grew up in the US and then moved to Europe. This still throws me for a loop, even after 13 years of living here. You know how I remember it? My birthday is March 1st, and I can remember that the numbers go from small to large in Europe (1/3) so they must be the other way around in America..(3/1)

The other confusing thing is that here, two digits numbers are backwards. So where 27 in America is said as "twenty-seven", in the Netherlands it's "seven-and-twenty". I'll automatically think of it as 72 since the seven is said first, and then I'll have to reverse it.

My life is hard too.

Janet said...

We ran into that problem on our mission in Korea. I could never tell the Korean missionaries birthday - so confusing. I'm with you and the genealogy way to right dates. That's what I use now.

Alice said...

I grew up in an army family. We always used the date, then the mo, then the year. I guess I have always been a backwards type of girl.

Ana said...

You're awesome. Dates and metric system just are more logical ways to do things aren't they?

Btw when I was younger and I used to write to my cousins in America I could never figure out what the date was. For years I never knew when their birthdays were.

Packrat said...

Dates throw me, too, but the most difficult number thing for is a dot used instead of a comma. Gets me every time.