Happy Bissextus!

It’s February 29 – Leap Day –  but the adolescent in me can’t forgo snickering at its old school name. Bissextus. You see what I mean, right?

Leap Day is added to the Julian calendar every fourth year (except those years evenly divisible by 400) to make up for the annual accumulation of nearly six hours by which the regular 365-day year falls short of the actual solar year.

But what does it sound so, um, bicurious? In the days of ancient Rome, they used to insert the leap day after March 6, resulting in two March 6ths (which sounds like an anti-Jedi parade: “March, Siths!”). “Bis” means double and “sextus” means “sixth” and not “sex,” as I had wantonly assumed. Then someone had the bright idea to add the extra day onto the month with the least days. Hence, today. Bissextus, which has nothing to do with sex. But there’s still room for some lovin’ on a bissextile year – an old tradition encourages women to propose to men on a Leap Day and men are not allowed to refuse. In our age of marriage equality, that means, really, no one can refuse.

About Daedalus Howell

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