Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve, Twelve, Twelve

Today is the last day this century that the date can be written the same way in the US as it is written in the UK. There is no Pi-day, 3.14.12, in the UK, for example, since the date is written 14.3.12 on that fair isle. It took me ages to understand what US HS teachers were talking about when they said Pi-day was coming. I though it was connected with mud pies because of mud season!!!!! Every time I write the date I have to consciously remember by birth date, 12/19//46, so that I write it the right way round. In the US the day fits right before the year making 1946. This didn't happen in the UK where it was 19/12/46. I must admit day/month/year does seem more logical. Why do we hop around here in the US and do month/day/year? Whose idea was that? Mr Webster's perhaps?

12 really is an interesting number. It's far more interesting that 10, the number around which our base system is constructed.  There is, of course, the duodecimal system or Base 12 that's used in several African cultures and, apparently, by Tolkien's Elvish language. 12 even has another name, 'dozen', just like twenty can be a  'score'. 12 also figures prominently in our culture with many things being purchased by the dozen, or the baker's dozen (13) that was still in effect when I was a child; the insurance against the crime of short measure. There's dozen roses too, a bottled or canned drinks are sold by the half dozen or less 'literarily' appealing 'six-pack'.

12 follows eleven which together cause more problems for children learning to count than just about anything else in western culture. In most Asian cultures the far more logical  equivalent of 'ten and one' and 'ten and two' are used.

There's the 12 days of Christmas, the 12 apostles, 12 people on a jury,12 signs of the zodiac, 12 inches in a foot and there used to be  12 old pennies in a shilling in the UK. There's also the dreaded 12 times tables. Why was it all the way up to 12 and not 10?  Why the added agony of those extra double digit facts to learn?

Time likes 12s too. Seconds, minutes and hours are all multiples of 12 and there are 12 months in a year. 360 degrees in a circle is also a multiple of 12 and we know circles are related to time in many different ways.

I know exactly where I was at 12:12 12/12/12. I was passing the whale tails on I89.

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