American vs. European Date formats (Modified by Grant Barrett)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Jun 3 03:40:55 UTC 2004

On Jun 2, 2004, at 2:02 PM, Grant Barrett wrote:

> Speaking of British vs. American, this query from a visitor to the ADS
> web site needs answering. Anyone? Please respond to the original
> querent and the list.
> ......
> Sorry for the interruption but I have question which I can't really
> find the answer for in any definitive way. Most of the world uses the
> date forum month/day/year but the United States uses day/month/year.
> The only reason I can think why this is so, is down to dialect. People
> in the US will say I was born on March 12, 1984 (for example) whereas
> I would say it "I was born on the 12th of March, 1984".

this is backwards (probably a simple typo); american usage is M/D/Y,
most of europe is D/M/Y, in other words in ascending order of units.  i
don't know the history, though both of these orders correspond to
possible orders in spoken english.  (and i leave aside the question of
how the numbers are separated orthographically: 9/11/01 or 9.11.01 or 9
11 01.)

in china (and, i think, much of asia) the notation is in descending
order of units: Y/M/D.  this order corresponds to the order
conventionally used in addresses (as a gross generalization: usually
descending in the east, ascending in the west).

but, like i said, i don't know the history.

arnold (zwicky at

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