It’s a Date!

Aztec Calendar Stone

Aztec Stone Calendar. Courtesy of Cornell University Library

Several readers of this blog have complained that I forget to include dates in my blog posts.  It’s a fair cop.

It’s not that I don’t know historical dates.  (Okay, sometimes I don’t know the exact date, but I know where to look it up.)

I even agree that dates are valuable, taken in small doses. (But don’t get me started on the over-reliance on memorizing dates in high school history classes.  It’s called hi-STORY, not chronology.)

I just don’t think about dates much.  Like many historians I know, I tend to think about events, people, and ideas in context instead of pegged to a date.  Ask me about the War of 1812 and I want to talk about troubles on the western frontier, the Napoleonic Wars,  and differing ideas of citizenship, not the fact that it happened in–oh, bad example.

Whether you realize it or not, you do the same thing.  My Own True Love, complaining about the absence of a date for Robert Peel and the London bobbies in a recent post, summed the concept up:  “If you tell me he’s a Roman emperor, I know he lived in ancient Rome.  I don’t have any idea when this Peel guy lived.”

The problem is, your context and mine are probably not the same.

Therefore, I do solemnly swear that I hereafter will try to remember to include dates (or at least a general historical framework) in my blog posts.

For the record, here are some of the dates that were missing in previous posts: 1915, 1095, 1829.


Public Toilets and Heads of State

As those of you who are reading along know, I recently learned that public toilets are called vespasianos in Italy, after the Roman emperor Vespasian, who introduced the concept to the empire.  This led my brain to London bobbies, named after British Prime Minister Robert Peel, who founded the London police when he was Home Secretary. *  Which made me wonder how many other words there are like this that refer back to a head of state.   Not places, buildings, or institutions.  Not names borrowed for marketing purposes, like a Lincoln town car or Prince Albert in a can. **

I wracked my brain.  I Googled hard.  The closest thing I came up with is the sandwich: the right kind of term, but you just can’t compare a dissipated English nobleman with a hard-working Roman emperor.

Tell me, Dear Readers, what am I missing?


*Rest assured, Dear Readers, I am NOT comparing policemen to public toilets. Though now that I think about, in both cases I’m glad to see one when I need one.

**Though Prince Albert was not technically a head of state.

A lagniappe

Dear Readers:  I’m guest-blogging today at Karen Elliot’s Blog:  Finding Your Way Through the Civil War

Visit.  Say hi.  Sit a spell.