Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31 or June 1?

Too many people have sent me communications today dated June 1. Last time I looked at the calendar (1 second ago), it's still May 31.

I think the confusion comes in because many people think May has only 30 days.

Not so. May is one of the long months, with a proud 31 at the tail. 

How do folks keep all the months straight?

My grandmother taught me a very simple trick years ago: hold up your fist, so the back of your hand faces you. It doesn't matter which hand you use.

Tap on the knuckle closest to you with the forefinger of the other hand. Say "January." 

No. It doesn't have to be said aloud. You can mutter it into your beard, for all I care. Just think "January" to yourself, if you're shy.

Now tap the valley between your first knuckle and the second. Think or say "February." Yes, it does have two "r"s in it.

Repeat the process with the next few months. Keep going.

Are you at July yet? That's the pinkie finger knuckle. Tap it again, saying or thinking "August."

Now come back the other way, with "September" in the valley, "October" back atop a knuckle, and go on to "December."

No, there aren't enough months to get back to the beginning, but leave it alone, okay?

What did you learn from this little exercise?

Yes, Jackie. That's right. The long months are on top of the knuckles, and the short ones are in the valleys. Thus, May really does have 31 days.

Repeat the exercise just to cement it in your mind. Now, whenever you are in doubt as to whether or not you have a day left in which to do your visit or home teaching (a reference for LDS Church members), do the knuckle exercise. Yes, you can do it mentally, if you're a visual person. If not, raise your fist and start tapping.

BTW, if you've never visited the blog where my characters and I chat and I post snippets of new work, please wander on over to The Characters in Marsha's Head. And don't miss the Sample Sunday/Saturday posts on this blog, so you can read excerpts from my previous novels.

Thank you!


  1. I'd never heard of the knuckle tapping system before! Very cool!

    I always remember it with the old rhyme: "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November."

  2. I'm with Stephanie. I've always said the rhyme. This is a fun way to remember! Jaimie

  3. I love it. I've always just had them memorized, but I had the same problem when I was scheduling a VT appointment and my lady kept saying today was the 1st. =D

  4. I can never remember the rhyme. I've always done my knuckles.

    I've never tapped the last one and gone back, though - I've just started over with my first finger. I guess it works both ways. :)

  5. I'm really lucky, I guess. In my "growing up" family, my brother's birthday was in February, mom's is April, Dad's was June, mine is September, and my sister's is November. Yep, if it was a birthday month, it was a short one.

    But I also have had the rhyme memorized shice childhood.


  6. We're writers--we should know the poem, too:

    Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one. Except for February.

    (That last part might have rhymed at one point, but I don't know it.) :)

    I, too, like the knuckle method, but the poem is faster for me. :)

  7. There'd better be 31 days in May, or as a May 31 birthday girl, I wouldn't be here! I'm like Tristi, I just start tapping knuckles over again at the beginning as I count months, and if anyone gives me a hard time about it, I tap their face with my knuckles!
    Great post, Marsha, way to remind those not lucky enough to be born on May 31 that, yes, Virginia, there is a May 31!

  8. I grew up on the rhyme, and eventually admired the knuckles. We wouldn't have to worry, but pride got in the way. I heard that when they made up the Roman calendar, they alternated the days, starting with 31. That made it great, except they had one day too many for 3/4 of the years. So they took a day from February. Then Caesar Augustus complained. He wanted as many days in his month as Julius Caesar had in his. so they took another day away from February.
    Since that put three months in a row with 31 days, they adjusted the last four months, which fouled up the works again by making Dec. and Jan. both 31. That's where pride or vanity gets people -- and the world -- confused.

  9. Anonymous4:58 PM

    I never heard of the knuckle thing! Thanks for sharing. I'm boring. If I don't know what the date is and I need to know, I look it up on the calendar. Problem solved. lol.

  10. I just heard this on TV last night and was so surprised to see this on your blog. I'd never heard of it before. I always use the thirty days has September... ditty.


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