September 03, 2007

#01-016: September Song: Ninth-Month Trivia

poster showing student holding up a book: text "Back to school, back to work, back to books"
In many countries, school starts in September

Note: September. For many people, it means the start of a new school year. (After 18 years as a student and 26 as an educator, I have come to feel that "New Years Day" must be some time in September!)

Get Ready: Does September have any special significance for you? What month do you think is most important?

September is the month in which autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere. This has always been my favorite season. Even as a Southern California boy, I noticed the change in the light, the shortening of days, the cooling of the weather.

Look at the lyrics to "September Song":

Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game.
Oh the days dwindle down... to a precious few...
September... November...
But these few precious days I'll spend with you.
These precious days I'll spend with you.

The singer here is using September (and autumn in general) as a symbol of approaching the end of life. Because it is sort of "the beginning of the end," September has come to represent one's later years.  

In the modern Western calendar (properly called "the Gregorian calendar,") September is the ninth month out of twelve. In the earliest days of the Roman empire, however, there was a different calendar. It had only ten regular months in the year, and September was the seventh. This is the source of its name: septem means "seventh" in Latin.

Likewise, October was the eighth month, November the ninth, and December the tenth. You can see this in their roots: octo- indicates eight, novem- nine, and decem- ten.

In that calendar, the first month was the one we call "March." In addition to the regular ten, there were usually two "floating months" in that old calendar, determined by the priests.

Later, in place of the floating months, two permanent months were added after December. These are modern January and February. So now, September is the ninth month. Unlike most months, andlike three others, it has thirty days. This gives us a well-known rhyme:

Thirty days has September,
April, June and November
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each leap year.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. dwindle
  2. Gregorian calendar
  3. hemisphere
  4. Latin
  5. leap year
  6. lyrics
  7. precious
  8. shortening

  1. usually every fourth one, which is one day longer
  2. the language spoken by the Romans
  3. becoming less long
  4. introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII
  5. become fewer
  6. of great value; highly esteemed
  7. half of the earth
  8. the words to a song

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 3, 2007

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. d; 3. h; 4. b; 5. a; 6. g; 7. c; 8. f