American Dates

IMG_0041It’s New Year’s Eve 2015, and something just occurred to me: Do Americans order our dates incorrectly?

We write our dates like so: 12/31/2015, or, said out loud, December 31, 2015. Month-day-year.

Those increments of time are roughly 30 days – 1 day – 365 days. Which is a little odd, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it make more sense to list those quantities of time in ascending order: 1 day – 30 days – 365 days? Day-month-year.

The rest of the world uses that system. I wonder why we Americans mix it up. It seems like one of those things that would be better if we were all on the same page, as numbers are pretty universal. 1/10/2016 should mean the same thing in France as it does in the US, but for us it’s January 10 and for them it’s October 1st.

I know, random post today. I’m still catching up on things after spending a week in Virginia with my family and adorable niece (see photo). Perhaps she should grow up in a world where dates are ordered the same way worldwide.

5 thoughts on “American Dates”

  1. Yes, you guys do it wrong!
    (It works for my birthday though, as I’m 6/6/82 no matter which part of the world I’m in).

    You also insist on using Imperial measurements for some crazy reason, even when the Empire that instituted them no longer does (along with the entire rest of the world sans Liberia and Myanmar (was Burma))!

  2. I think that a number of Asian countries will do yyyy-mm-dd. Backwards of Europe, but still better than us in the US since they are in order.
    I’ve taken to writing my dates as dd-Mmm-yyyy, so 31 Dec 2015.
    However you do it, have a happy new year!

  3. Well, the American system makes sense for the way that you say the date (at least in the States) We don’t typically say 31st of December 2015. We say December 31st, 2015, so the order makes sense when you read it out loud.

    You could also argue that the American system is a more efficient way to know how far away a date is. The first element tells you the Month, so you know whether the date is imminent, or several months away. If something isn’t happening until July, I may not care what day in July, so I can just skip the rest of the date. This is very useful when scanning over a list of dates to find dates that are approaching quickly. If the day is listed first, I need to pick out the middle element of the date in order to find the month.

    Including the year last is generally OK, because most dates we encounter that we care about are going to happen within the next year or so.

    The only real exception is If I’m putting a date in a filename, I always do YYYYMMDD so that the files appear in order when sorting by name.

    But to avoid confusion, when I communicate with someone outside the US, I always spell or abbreviate the month name to completely skirt the issue. (31-Dec 2015 or Dec 31, 2015).

  4. Ian: Lucky you to have a birthday that works either way. 🙂

    Chris: Interesting–I didn’t know that about Asian countries. I’m trying to think back to how I wrote the year in Japanese, but it’s been too long!

    Scott: I can imagine it would be quite tough to switch from one to the other!

    Adam: Interesting that you all still say it the way we say it even though you write it differently. You make some good points about the American way of writing it, and I like your solution of just spelling out the month so it’s clear to whomever reads it.


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