12/12/12Dec 12, 2012 By Steven R. Peck
We are leaving the period of calendar oddities behind
An amusing part of life in the early years of our new century has been the calendar oddities that have cropped up for more than a decade. That time is about to end.
For people who enjoy this sort of thing, we have arrived at one of the great calendar quirks. It is the 12th day of the 12th month of the year 12 in the century.
No one ever got more enjoyment over such things than Carolyn B. Tyler, our longtime news staff member who served as Ranger editor columnist, staff writer, photographer and designated calendar watcher during her long and varied career spanning 51 years on The Ranger masthead.
She would have joined the many readers taking an added measure of enjoyment from a Wednesday in December with a datebook shorthand of 12/12/12. The run of 12s was taken to its extreme at 12 minutes and 12 seconds after midnight: 12/12/12/12:12:12. It's going to be 89 years until we'll see anything to match it (here's hoping we'll all still be here to ring in Jan. 1, 2101, or 1/1/1.)
We've had a slew of these things since the century turned. In between 1/1/1 and 12/12/12, we've had 1/2/3, 2/3/4, 3/4/5, etc. We've had 5/4/3, 6/5/4 and 7/6/5 and so on. We've seen 2/4/6 and 3/5/9, 10/10/10 and 11/11/11, 01/10 and 03/30.
There have been mathematical sums such as 2/2/4 and 3/3/6, multiples such as 2/3/6 and 3/3/9, and products such as 12/6/2 and 10/2/5.
No doubt there are those who assign some extra portent to the date 12/12/12. Maybe there will be a computer snafu or a stock market plunge that will be attributed to it. Or, conversely, gamblers might try to get lucky. The dice thrower who could manage three straight "boxcars"' would be a lucky shooter indeed -- if he had bet on it ahead of time.
We're doing a news story on some kids who are turning 12 years old on 12/12/12, and it's a busier day for weddings than a December Wednesday normally would be. Chances are many expectant couples will be hoping this is the day the baby will be born. To what extremes they might go in order to ensure it will be interesting to observe.
From here on out, our century won't deliver nearly as many of these numerical amusements. Next year we'll get 1/3/13 and 11/12/13, 3/31/13 and 3/1/13, but nothing that has the catchiness of 7/7/7 or 1/2/3.
This is one of the few that is recognized more or less worldwide. Most of the rest of the civilized world doesn't express calendar shorthand the way we do, however, so our affection for, say, 5/6/7 doesn't carry much weight Europe, for example, where May, 6, 2007, was shorted to 6/5/7 (day-month-year). All the more reason, then, to take note of the purity of the date, which happens just 12 times per century.
Finally, remember that all of this is pretty arbitrary. Our calendar is an invention of human beings, and it's actually pretty strange when you look at it. The months generally are set up to match the cycles of the moon, but they certainly don't match the lunar orbit all that accurately. Why not 13 months instead of 12? Why 31 days in some and just 28 in another. Why is "October," which clearly was named in order to be the eighth (oct) month, actually the 10th? Nothing says "10" like "December," yet it's the 12th month of the year. Who decided the "year" would begin on Jan. 1? And don't forget, back in 1752 we decided that the calendar was wrong and adjusted it by 11 days. George Washington's birthday was Feb. 11 when his mother delivered him, but on his 20th birthday it became Feb. 22, when the King of England decreed that Britain and its colonies would observe the Gregorian calendar thenceforth.
Nowadays we use Leap Year to adjust the calendar once every four years by adding a day. Back in 1752, the calendar was so out of whack compared to the moon, the sun and the seasons that 11 days that year officially were wiped away. According to the calendar, they just didn't happen.
It's all a human contrivance, but it's been a fun contrivance over the past 12 years. So make note of the day's rarity on the calendar, and then look forward to making the most of 12/13/12.
Come to think of it, that has a nice ring to it as well.