What the February…?
In my previous blog, I recognised how hard it is to pronounce the days of the week in my
dysfunctional language. This time, we’re dealing with the months, so there are twelve of the
bastards, but the good news is that not all of them bite…
The first problem you might have noticed with the months is that the numbering system is all over the place. If an octopus has eight legs, why isn’t October the eighth month? In this case, it’s the Romans’ fault. They messed with the order of their own calendar then sold their dodgy system to most European languages, English included.
Originally, the Roman year started with March, named after their war god, Mars, because it was the month when the weather cheered up enough to start killing people again. Then they decided to add two extras at the start of the year, so it started with January and February, which commemorate a god of doors and an ancient hygiene routine, respectively. The trick to
pronouncing both is to start with their written abbreviations, Jan and Feb and then add “Yuri” (like Gagarin) to the end, so: JAN-yuri, FEB-yuri (and no, I don’t pronounce the first ‘r’ in February, personally). April comes from the Latin word for opening but in English, we pronounce the opening syllable like a monkey, to get APE-ril. May and June are both named after goddesses, and both are pronounced pretty much as they look, with the second sounding just like the dune you might
see from the beach.
We might have some narcissistic leaders now, but you have to go back to the Roman Empire to find the kind of insecurity that requires you to permanently graffiti your name on the calendar. Julius and Augustus Caesar both decided they deserved to have a month named after them, and since the numbering was hopelessly screwed already, what the hell, right? In protest at
this arrogance, the English have decided to pronounce July as something close to “you lie” with a ‘d’ in front, so dyu-LAI and August as OR-gust, so it sounds like a nice word for flatulence.
The Final Four
The names of the last four months made sense when December was the tenth and final one, and their pronunciation is still just as logical, providing you remember that they all stress their second syllable, so: sepTEMber, ocTOber, noVEMber and deCEMber. However, if you really want to learn the months perfectly, you need a better teacher than me…