Supputation
Posted: 12 January 2014 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’d popped over to Wikipedia to check out this notion I’d had rattling around in my head for years that when Britain and her dominions switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1750 there were minor riots with people indignantly demanding that the Government return their eleven missing days. (It turns out there were no such riots; it was a myth based in part on a misinterpretation of a political print by Hogarth, An Election Entertainment.)

While on the Wikipedia page I followed the link to the 1750 Act and straight came across this word: supputation.

Whereas the legal supputation of the year of our Lord in England, according to which the year beginneth on the twenty-fifth day of March, hath been found by experience to be attended with divers inconveniences, not only as it differs from the usage of neighbouring nations, but also from the legal method of computation in Scotland, and from the common usage throughout the whole kingdom, and thereby frequent mistakes are occasioned in the dates of deeds and other writings, and disputes arise therefrom: And whereas the calendar now in use throughout all his Majesty’s British dominions, commonly called The Julian Calendar, hath been discovered to be erroneous, by means whereof the vernal or spring equinox, which at the time of the general council of Nice in the year of our Lord three hundred and twenty-five happened on or about the twenty-first day of March, now happens on the ninth or tenth day of the same month; and the said error is still increasing, and if not remedied would in process of time occasion the several equinoxes and solstices to fall at very different times in the civil year from what they formerly did, which might tend to mislead persons ignorant of the said alteration: ............

OED defined thus: “The action or process of calculating or computing (an amount, chronological period, etc.); calculation, computation, reckoning. Also: an instance of this; a method or system of reckoning; a calculation. Now arch. and rare.”

Interesting, but here’s what I found fascinating. The ultimate Latin root is the verb putare, to trim, to prune, and later to clear up, settle, reckon. And this same word for pruning is behind all of the following English words: compute, reputation, dispute, deputy, imputation, putative, amputate (back to beginnings there) and more.

From a Cincinnatus pruning his vines on his farm to an Englishman typing these words on his superfast laptop computer, that’s some journey for the humble putare.

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Posted: 12 January 2014 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The ultimate Latin root is the verb putare, to trim, to prune, and later to clear up, settle, reckon.

That struck me as odd, as I understood putare to mean to think, consider, reckon, compute. And I believe these are by far the most common meanings. But I look at Lewis and Short and, indeed, putare does have senses of to clean, cleanse and to trim, prune.

And of course, a computus is an astronomical table, especially one used to calculate feast days.

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Posted: 12 January 2014 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m a little disappointed to find out that the calendar riots were a myth.  Also surprised, because cynic that I am, I can’t help thinking a substantial number of people must have wound up paying a month’s rent out of 19 days’ income.

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Posted: 12 January 2014 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Googling “calendar riots” and taking a quick look at the top results, and nearly all the sites give the impression that the riots actually occurred. They all get around eventually to stating that they’re a fiction or “probably” a fiction, but that’s only after you scroll down a bit. Someone taking a quick look at the page could easily come away with the wrong impression.

(Years ago someone rightly admonished me for putting the popular, mythical tales of word origins first, and only explaining the actual origin later. Since then, I’ve reversed it. The facts as we know them go up front, and the discussion of the myth last. It’s tempting to tell the story in the former fashion as it has a “hook” at the beginning, but it’s ineffective in conveying the facts.)

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Posted: 12 January 2014 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 January 2014 02:04 PM

Googling “calendar riots” and taking a quick look at the top results, and nearly all the sites give the impression that the riots actually occurred. They all get around eventually to stating that they’re a fiction or “probably” a fiction, but that’s only after you scroll down a bit. Someone taking a quick look at the page could easily come away with the wrong impression.

(Years ago someone rightly admonished me for putting the popular, mythical tales of word origins first, and only explaining the actual origin later. Since then, I’ve reversed it. The facts as we know them go up front, and the discussion of the myth last. It’s tempting to tell the story in the former fashion as it has a “hook” at the beginning, but it’s ineffective in conveying the facts.)

Dave, Dave, Dave ...

You’ll never be a clickbait billionaire with that attitude.

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Posted: 13 January 2014 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Also surprised, because cynic that I am, I can’t help thinking a substantial number of people must have wound up paying a month’s rent out of 19 days’ income.

From the Wikipedia article:

There were, however, legitimate concerns about tax payments under the new calendar. Under provision 6 (Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities) of the Act, Great Britain made special provisions to make sure that monthly or yearly payments would not become due until the dates that they originally would have in the Julian calendar, or in the words of the act “[Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities] at and upon the same respective natural days and times as the same should and ought to have been payable or made or would have happened in case this Act had not been made”.

There’s a wonderful passage on the whole mess in chapter 19 of Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon:

“So what the D―l is yerr dear Friend Dr. Bradley up t’, he and his Protectors? Stealing eleven Days? Can that be done?” It seem’d his Father had really been asking.

“No, Pa,— by Act of Parliament, September second next shall be call’d, as ever, September second,— but the day after will be known as ‘September fourteenth,’ and then all will go on consecutive, as before.”

[...]

Mr. Swivett, approaching a facial lividity that would alarm a Physician, were one present, now proclaims, “Not only did they insult the God-given structure of the Year, they also put us on Catholic Time. French Time. We’ve been fighting France all our Lives, all our Fathers’ Lives, France is the Enemy eternal,— why be rul’d by their Calendar?”

In Mason’s words, “Of the many Classics of Idiocy, this Idiocy of the Eleven Days has join’d the select handful that may never be escap’d.”

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