A good friend moved out to New York a few years back, and I can't help nagging her when she writes things like 'center' and says 'can I get' (how rude!) on the rare occasions that we go out together.

I'm really not a purist when it comes to language. You guys are doing your own thing over there, so I'm not really that bothered if you're playing loose and fast with Queenie's RP.

However - you will insist on sending me email newsletters with completely illogical dates.

Kicking around in a mailbox: OPA Intelligence Report 2/7/05. That's the second of July in my world. I can accept that you put your dates in a different order - but it's just the wrong order! What possible reason is there for putting the month first? It's completely illogical and worse, could (and almost certainly has) caused some transatlantic communication nightmares.

Day! Month! Year! Please!

Perhaps there's an anally retentive date geek out there who can enlighten me?

Reminds me of the Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci piece in the Observer after the World Trade Centre episode: it was a disaster so bad that England even changed its convention of placing the day before the month.

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From Tom Kiss, 16:42 3 March 2005

Very annoying, yes…

But, the ISO 8601 date format solves these problems and more: http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/iso-date.

From Jemima Kiss, 16:57 3 March 2005

Thanks little brother. Still think date/month/year is more intuitive. Compromise just means nobody getting it right...

From Joe Mason, 21:00 3 March 2005

We do find our different ways of writing dates confusing in a cross-atlantic context; but not today of course (3/3/05).

Looked at strictly logically, the American way of writing dates is insupportable - but who said language was logical? If you look at it as just a short way of writing down the spoken words (which it can be) then 'March the third, 2005' is just as good English English as 'the third of March, 2005'. Anyway there is not the slightest chance that Amercans are going to change their usage, although we may well change ours (do you remember when the English billion was a million million?).

From PJR, 21:29 3 March 2005

I too have cursed the annoying American way of using dates. I asked an American friend why they do this - to them it was simple and very logical. If I asked you 'What's the date?', you may well answer, say, 'July the 2nd, 2005'. Put this into numerals and you've got, well, 07/02/05, not our usual 2/07/05. So maybe there's some sense in it after all..?!

From John Tomlinson, 22:56 3 March 2005

It's our fault. The American format copied the British. But we changed the convention here in about 1900.

From Andrea Rademan, 01:26 4 March 2005

It is just a short way of writing down the spoken words — one always says the month first, then the day of the month, then the year. Why is it the brits find the americans annoying and we find you charming?

From Jemima Kiss, 09:32 5 March 2005

I actually said 'Annoying Americanisms' not 'Annoying Americans'! In my experience, Americans are much more polite and charming than us.

From John Thorne, 02:25 4 March 2005

One of the beautiful things about the English language is that there is no 'academie anglaise'; there are no rules, only conventions. You should learn to enjoy the linguistic quirks that make each region of the English-speaking world stand out from the others. Sounds like your friend already has.

But since you complained, I've got a little tut-tut for you: the expression is 'fast and loose', not 'loose and fast'. ;)

From Jemima Kiss, 09:46 5 March 2005

Friendly banter aside, language is fluid and adaptable and I do embrace these differences. But what annoys me is specifically this date format: 07/02/05 because it doesn't make sense to put the month before the day. Not logical Captain.

I deliberately inverted 'fast and loose', by the way! I occasionally change expressions to make them a bit more lively - after all, language is fluid and adaptable...

From Joff Bradley, 11:44 4 March 2005

Japan and time.

You wanna try and do it the Japanese way - year, month, day.

Remembering your birthday in line with the emperor's reign is a nightmare.

From Keith Mundy, 06:45 6 March 2005

You're all, except for the guy in Japan, being highly UK-US-centric. This date thing concerns the whole world. Here in Thailand, I've just been doing my tax assessment and came across a bank transfer payment from Japan dated 10.04.04 by Citibank Bangkok. This turned out to be October 4, even though Thailand, including all Thai-owned banks, uses day/month/year as a matter of course. Citibank obviously doesn't give a toss about that, though -- it's US-owned so it does it the US way, no matter what confusion this might cause every day to countless customers worldwide.

This is the kind of havoc that the American system wreaks worldwide, where most people - in Europe, Asia and Latin America for sure, in all of which I've lived - use the ascending order of magnitude, logically, intelligently, sensibly. Every single American company/institution/etc is spewing out silly confusing dates to the world daily (just look at the web). At best, all the rest of us have to waste time doing a mental recalculation, assuming we realise that we're dealing with an American date, at worst (for example), in all the cases where it isn't obvious we're dealing with the American system, people could be financially ruined by mistaking the date.

For Americans to bleat that they're just following numerically what they write in words is typical "we don't care what the rest of the world does" ignorance/arrogance (you never know when it's one or the other or both) with potentially disastrous consequences.

It's not some little peccadillo, some charming idiosyncrasy, some amusing quirk of language - it's bloody dangerous stupidity. 

From Lea Galanter, 17:39 6 March 2005

As an experienced professional editor of both American and British English I am more than a little offended at your narrow-minded and pedantic approach to language. No one has the right to say any one dating style is wrong. The American way of dating is in line with the American way of speaking and writing. It isn't wrong, illogical or counter intuitive as your rant indicates, it's just different. If anything, I support the global usage of the ISO standard to put an end to the confusion caused by different dating styles around the world. It's time to start thinking globally about such things.

If I were going to be equally pedantic about annoying Britishisms, I would rant about the illogical and unnecessary use of hyphens with compound phrases using adverbs ending in -ly that I so often see in the UK. This writing style is one of my pet peeves and indicates the writer or editor's lack of understanding behind the purpose and use of hyphens in adverbial and adjectival phrases. But hey, it's not world peace, so there's no use fighting over it.

From Jemima Kiss, 12:13 7 March 2005

I absolutely do have the right to say that a dating style is wrong: it's called free speech.

I agree that it is time 'to start thinking globally about such things' - to me that means the US using a system of dates that is internationally compatible, particularly when publishing online. I have still not been presented with any argument for using the illogical and confusing month/day/year date system other than 'it's just the way we do it'.

I'll leave defence of our hyphenated compound adjectives to the sub-editors. Anyone?

From Bernie Russell, 21:11 6 March 2005

There are only four dates anyway:
the other day
yonks ago.

From John Thorne, 22:52 8 March 2005

About the date thing: a few people have called the American format 'illogical' because it goes medium-small-big instead of small-medium-big. But that doesn't make it illogical, just counter-intuitive.

The soundest argument against the American format is that it doesn't jive with the rest of the world. If America switched to the standard day-month-year, the worldwide soothing of jangled nerves would outweigh the small inconvenience to Americans. "The needs of the many..." (you made a subtle reference to Spock in an earlier email, so I assume you know how that sentence ends).

The arguments for the American format are that Americans have the right to format dates any way they please, and that variety is the = spice of life. Sameness nearly always means drabness. This may seem like shallow sentiment, but remember that we have to live in this world, not just function in it. That's why we should be wary of the urge to flatten and homogenize.

Oh, and if anybody cares, I'm an American who lives in London.

From Omar Nour, 20:02 30 March 2006

Re; Lea Galanter's comment on the subject of use of hyphens with compound phrases using adverbs ending in -ly;

This is, in fact, a facet of American English that has, over time, been naturalised into British English. Some of the earliest examples can be found in the works of Rudyard Kipling, who (rather ironically) was critcised by purists of the day for polluting the language.

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