In October 1793, the French Revolution replaced the old Gregorian calendar with a new secular, republican one. In this, the twelve months of the year were named after our experience of the seasons, and each day was named for a seed, tree, flower, fruit, animal, or tool. Sadly, this was abandoned by Napoleon in 1806. I wonder how much better the French people's links to, and understanding of, the natural world might have been had they continued.
The republican year started with the autumnal equinox, with months getting new names based on words that characterised the prevailing weather in Paris. Thus autumn month names were derived from vintage, mist and frost; winter from snow, rain and wind; spring from germination, flower and meadow; and summer from harvest, summer heat and fruit. The names were (starting from January):
Pluviôse [month of rain]
Ventôse [month of wind]
Germinal [month of sprouting buds]
Floréal [month of flowering]
Prairial [month of meadows]
Messidor [month of harvest]
Thermidor [month of warmth]
Fructidor [month of fruits]
Vendémiaire [month of vintage]
Brumiaire [month of fog]
Frimaire [month of wintry weather]
Nivôse [month of snow]
A contemporary English wit, unimpressed with these, suggested that they should have been:
– Slippy, Drippy, Nippy, Showery, Flowery, Bowery, Hoppy, Croppy, Poppy, Wheezy, Sneezy, Freezy.
But this idea was not entirely lost with, in the Czech Republic, their names of the months roughly translate as:
– Frozen month, Ice melting month, Animal pregnant month, Oak acorn month, Flowering month, Red month, Even redder month, Sickle month, Blazing colours month, Deer rutting month, Leaf fall month and Pig fattening month.
Is biodiversity doing better in the Czech Republic, I wonder, than it is here. Given how bad it is here, it's a pretty low hurdle.