America has responded to French criticism by creating “freedom fries”, refusing to acknowledge the knife cut known as “frenching”. During World War I, anti-German sentiment led to sauerkraut being called “liberty cabbage”. Neither of these rebrandings approach the magnitude of the one that the French undertook following their revolution against the monarchy, however.
The French rebranded the calendar.
Attempting to set aside all trappings of the elite, including much of French history and religion, they decided to take a purely mathematical approach to the calendar. Setting almost everything into decimal units, they continued to use a twelve-month system but had each month consist of three ten-day weeks. Their new calendar was adopted on October 24, 1793.
The months were designed to rhyme within the seasons, and to be named for beautiful but mundane things; flowers, jobs, tools and the like. They were: Vendémiaire, Brumaire and Frimaire; Nivôse, Pluviôse and Ventôse; Germinal, Floréal and Prairial; and Messidor, Thermidor and Fructidor.
The days were given two designations; there was the mundane basic name: Primidi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi, Quintidi, Sextidi, Septidi, Octidi, Nonidi, Decadi. Each of the days had its own secondary name, though, depending on the week of the month. Tridi, for example, was Melon the first week, Abricot the second week, and Lentille the third week. The workweek was nine days, with the tenth considered a day of rest.
This put France out of coordination with the remainder of Europe for things like travel and trade, but such were minor concerns to the new revolutionaries.
The twenty-third day in the eleventh month, therefore, would be “Lentille Thermidor” – Lentil thermidor, which would probably make most gourmets just shake their heads in silent dismay.
To keep the calendar coordinated with the solar year, at the end of the twelve months, there were five days of celebration, six in leap years.
The new nine-day workweek proved to be very unpopular, as did various other decisions by the new Revolutionary government – most notably, the murderous Reign of Terror. The revolution ended in 1799 after Napoleon seized control in a coup. After he consolidated power with his coronation as Emperor at the end of 1804 he returned France to the classical calendar, putting it back in synch with the remainder of most of the world and sending the Revolutionary calendar into the realm of historical oddities and very bad trade decisions.
Question of the night: What name would you give to a new day or month?