Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January

What a wild ride so far, eh? I don't know about where you live, but we've had uncharacteristic warm temperatures here, even by Tennessee standards. We've also had a few days of severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Tornadoes aren't all that unusual in January in the South, but this is ridiculous.

Global warming? Sun spots? Who the heck knows? I only know that while living in Ohio January meant the coldest temperatures of the year, snow-covered lawns and streets, howling winter winds, and bare trees. It was so cold one year there were deer tracks leading all the way up to the small trees and bushes planted next to our house. Poor things were that hungry - they came into a subdivision and risked human contact just to find something to eat.

As I was thinking of the contrasts between the Januaries of my childhood and the spring-like conditions I'm now forced to endure in what should be a cold, quiet month, I began to wonder (as I so frequently do) where the name January came from.

January is named after Janus, the god of the doorway. The name has its beginnings in Roman mythology, coming from the Latin word for door, because January is the door to the year. Traditionally, the original Roman calendar consisted of 10 months, totalling 304 days because winter was considered a monthless period. Around 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, is supposed to have added the months of January and February, bringing the calendar to the standard lunar year of 365 days.

Although March was originally the first month in the old Roman Calendar, January became the first month of the calendar year under either Numa or the Decemvirs about 450 BC. Historical names for January include its original Roman designation, Ianuarius, the Saxon term Wulf-monath, meaning wolf month, and Charlemagne's designation Wintarmanoth, which means winter or cold month.

In Finnish, the month is called tammikuu, meaning month of the oak, but the original meaning was the month of the heart of winter. In Belarusian January is called word which means "a frosty one." In Czech this month is called leden, meaning ice month. In Ukrainian the word for January means cutting or slicing. Perhaps referring to the wind? Similarly, in Croatian January is called a word that means meaning cutting or slicing. The Turkish word for the month is called Ocak that means stove or fireplace.

Had enough? :) I don't know about you, but I find this stuff fascinating. I love to research names and their origins, because so often they end up nothing like the original idea or reason behind the name.

2 comments:

  1. I hate tornado warnings in January in our part of the country. They SHOULD be uncommon!

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  2. I agree! Imagine what April will be like???

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