I had to change the dates when I was doing my children's version of Gulliver's Travels.
(No, believe me, the original Gulliver's Travels is a very grown up book indeed. Jonathan Swift has a history of being very fond of little girls, but he didn't write books for them.)
The original goes like this:
I began this desperate voyage on February 15, 1714/15, at nine o'clock in the morning.
The date in my new version was simplified to the frankly dull February 15, 1715.
Why does Swift date his adventure 1714/15? Well, the calendar year used to begin on March 25th (so that March 24th 1714 was immediately followed by March 25th 1715). Then it was decided it would make more sense to start the year on January 1st instead. In the period while one system was giving way to the other it was thus necessary to make it absolutely clear which year was intended when writing dates between January 1st and March 25th. Hence 1714/15.
Yes, my publishers said, we will be having footnotes. But the stuff about the dates isn't relevant to the children.
Of course it's relevant. What piece of information can be more all-pervadingly relevant to everyone than that so many of the pillars of our existence, even our measures of Time Itself, are entirely arbitrary?
Anyway, blow all that, it's really interesting.
Well, it was good to get that off my chest. Perhaps I'll start feeling a bit better, now.
Word To Use Today: date. This word comes from an Old French word, and originally from the Latin phrase epistula data Romae, which means letter handed over at Rome.