A Cleaner Grid of Time

Stewart Smith
Nov 5, 2017 · 6 min read

A quirky proposal for fixing how calendars divide the year into months.

Hey. We need to talk about months. Yeah, months. How many days are in this month? You call yourself an adult and yet just now you had to recite a nursery rhyme in your head to figure out the answer—didn’t you? Or maybe you didn’t even bother because you thought you were just reading this for fun and “figuring” sounded like work. (Fuck work.)

Oh wait, though: It’s going to take a little work to fix months. But it’s totally worth it.


Months are an attempt to divide the year (one trip around the Sun) into Moon cycles. But our orbit around the Sun just doesn’t divide evenly into Moons. It takes us just slightly more than 13 Moons to get around the Sun—and that’s not even an integer. When you round it down to 13… Look, 13 is a pretty terrible number. It’s prime so it’s not evenly divisible by anything. And people literally die when you use 13 too much. It’s like dividing by zero.

So instead of dividing a year into 13-point-whatever Moon cycles we should continue to divide the year into an even 12 months. 12 is nice. It divides into 2, 3, 4, and 6 evenly. (And sounds lovely.) It’s pretty great to be able to say “we divorced half a year ago” or “I’ll finish that report next quarter, get off my fucking back, Doug” and have that mean an actual even number of months instead of some annoying fractional nonsense.

Days per month. But here’s where we can make some progress! Let’s make the number of days in a month either 30 or 31. Period. You get either 30 days or 31 days. None of this 28 days. (Don’t even come at me with 29 days.) A month has either 30 or 31 days and that’s final. And this should alternate. If last month had 30 days, this one has 31. That means 6 months of the year have 30 days and the other 6 months have 31 days—that gives us a full 366 days per year:

(6 months x 30 days) + (6 months x 31 days) = 366 days = 1 year

Did I lose you with some simple arithmetic there? Cause this next one will outright scare you. If we make the first month of the year have 30 days, then the next will have 31, then 30, and so on—then this modulo operation is true:

(month number % 2) + (days this month % 2) = 1

Leap Day. Look, you probably noticed that 366 days is not 365 days. (Smart ass.) But that’s fine, it just means we’ve got Leap Year covered already. So for non-Leap Years let’s make the final month the one that bends the rules. On Leap Years the final month will have 31 days and our whole system follows the rules perfectly and we all get the warm fuzzies in our hearts. On non-Leap Years it will have only 30 days. I know that’s not perfect—shut up—but this method places the exception to the pattern at the end of the year instead of randomly shoving it elsewhere. (I mean... February? Really?!)

Month names. Ok, I think it’s kind of gross to just invent magical new names for things. But this current bullshit we put up with has got to stop. For example the prefix “oct” in “October” of course means “eight” as October was originally the 8th month of the year prior to the insertion of January and February. September, November, and December suffer the same discontinuity. Their names are decoupled from their original numeric meaning and now at best serve as false cognates.

Additionally the alphabetical sorting of month names as we know them also has no relationship to their sequential order. It’s a small but recurring annoyance that when you open a folder on your computer that has files named by month they don’t just alphabetically fall into time order. (Anyone else feel this or am I alone in going postal over sorting?) I mean really, here’s what it looks like when you alpha-sort the months: April, August, December, February, January, July… Who needs that hassle?

To resolve these issues let’s draw upon the Greek alphabet and other sources of inspiration. (Legal in some states.) These redonkulous new month names simultaneously sort themselves chronologically and alphabetically. Bonus: Names beginning with vowels evenly divide the year into thirds and have six letters, while names beginning with consonants have seven letters.

Ok, so let’s see what that looks like all put together into a 12 month calendar. Notice the week-ends actually come at the end of the week like the Europeans do. It just makes more sense. As does universal healthcare.

Below we can see an emphasis on the cadence of sounds. Again, the year is naturally divided into thirds by month names beginning with vowels. Months of the first third end in —lamen, the second third in —damen, and final in —namen. It’s got flow, fool:

Alamen, Belamen, Calamen, Delamen.

Edamen, Fedamen, Gadamen, Hedamen.

Inamen, Jenamen, Kanamen, Lenamen.

Can we apply some of that to days of the week too? Yea. I mean, it kinda makes sense for weeks to remain the same; to be truer to the Moon than the Sun. So each week is still composed of 7 days, allowing 4 weeks to roughly fit into the moon’s 29.5-ish day cycle. Yea, it doesn’t fit evenly into months, but we already put up with that noise anyway.

Although it was tempting to create a system where the first day of each month was always the first day of the week (called an Invariable Calendar), this leads to some impractical stupidity. For example, the Hanke-Henry model, which takes the unusual tack of adding an extra week every 5 or 6 years, breaks our aim-for-tidy assertion that the length of months should always be as equal as possible. That model’s reshuffle would have created only 240 weekdays of 366 (66%) versus the current calendar which yields 261 (71%) thus decreasing regulated human productivity severely. Cause you’re at work right now reading this, right? Getting work done, are we?


That’s just all I have the heart for right now. (Should a year begin on the spring equinox? Should our epoch begin with the Trinity Test? Who knows!) I originally published this idea in 2012. I’ve changed a lot in that half decade. But fixing months still feels like a good idea.

To be continued some day . . .

Stewart Smith

Written by

Creative polymath making quantum simulations, virtual reality, and more in Brooklyn NY. http://stewartsmith.io

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