I will freely admit: I’ve never been much of a math person, but at times I’m fascinated by numbers and the way we use them in various words and phrases. Take eleven as an example for the year of 2011. Have you ever heard the expression “the eleventh hour?” Most people know it refers to doing or changing something at the last minute, but have you ever thought about how the meaning originated?
And what about the date itself? Written numerically, today is 1-10-2011 (at least in the United States’ format of month/day/year). That sequence, which is the same read either forward or backward (disregarding punctuation), is called a palindrome. Isn’t that fun?
In today’s edition of The Columbian, an interview with palindrome enthusiast Aziz Inan (right) takes a deeper look at the date’s significance. An electrical engineering professor at the University of Portland, Inan explains that the 21st century contains 12 eight-digit palindrome dates, plus 26 seven-digit palindrome dates. Today is the third palindrome date of the century. October 2, 2001 (10-02-2001) was the first, and the next will be November 2, 2011 (11-02-2011). Between them was January 2, 2010 (01-02-2010), when Inan was interviewed by the Boston Globe about the same subject.
“Before 2001,” Inan told the Globe, “the most recent [palindrome date] was in 1380, since days of the month never exceed 31.” That makes the occurence of two palindrome dates makes 2011 especially unique; 2021 is the only other year this century in which double palindrome dates appear.
Okay, that’s more enough geeking out over numbers. The Hot Word blog posted an article about the word “eleven” recently, offering a few fun tidbits:
- The word “eleven” derives from the Old English endleofan, which means “one left,” as in “one left over ten.”
- Some say that the expression “the eleventh hour” originally referenced the parable in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 20, verses 1-16. In it laborers were hired at the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour workday, but they received the same wage as workers who began during the first hour.
- In England, the term “elevenses” refers to a mid-morning snack, such as biscuits with a cup of tea.
See, I told you I’m more of a word nerd than a math magician. 🙂