The Very Best You Can Say About February Is It's Short

All I can say is, my parents tried. They tried hard to wean me away from being a hater. "You're not allowed to hate your brother," I was told, often. I was not allowed to hate eggplant or even the New York Yankees. Actually, my father never pushed too hard on that, because he was from Boston. I figured out that I could hate, but couldn't say so.

The parental message was perfectly sound and valid, and still is. Hating is a symptom of emotional immaturity. Having said that, I hate February. I know hating allows bias and bigotry to dominate good judgment, but consider February.

It begins with Groundhog Day, an observance devoted to predicting how rotten the rest of the month will be. And for that they trust a rodent who gobbles gardens. Then you need other holidays to divert your attention from how unpleasant a month this really is.

Presidents' Day honors George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, both born in February, both stripped of their own birthdays in favor of a convenient Monday somewhere in between. You celebrate the legacy of our greatest presidents by going out and buying a car made in Japan. That's what they tell you on TV. Nobody ever implores you to buy a car in the name of President William Henry Harrison, also born in February. That's because he gave a long inaugural speech while standing in the rain, and a month later John Tyler was president.

Flower-sellers and the candy man have their own moment as well. It's Valentine's Day. Make a nice gesture toward someone important in your life. If you do that only on Valentine's Day, there won't be anyone important in your life.

And consider the name February. You can't even pronounce it. Who tucked that "R" in there behind the "B," anyway? Feb-brew-airy. Right. How often do you hear it that way? Feb-you-airy, Febwary, and for the British, even Feburce.

Can you imagine a mother naming her daughter February? I mean, there are a lot of Aprils and Mays and Junes walking around, and even some Springs and Summers. And a guy in "Lonesome Dove" was called July Johnson, and another was Augustus.

But Februarius? No thank you-us! It's really the Feb-brew part that annoys the ear, but the airy part is suspect as well.

Think for a moment of the last four months of the year, when the temperatures are chilling down to winter. Their names all end, appropriately, with "brrrr." Now when it's really cold and miserable, we have two months with misleading names: Jan-you-airy, and of course Febrew-airy. Saying those months are airy is what the Brits refer to as understatement.

The name comes from Februa, an ancient purification festival the Romans used to hold in the middle of the month. I can't imagine that for 2,000 years, nobody's been able to improve on the name.

It's time. Let's purify February. We have a fertile language that spins out dozens of new words every year. Let's abolish the name and come up with one that's at least a little less ugly on the tongue.

But think fast. The saving grace of February is it's short, even in Leap Year.

* Steve Delaney, former host of Monitor Radio 'Early Edition,' lives in Milton, Vt.

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