America dating format

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Why do Americans write the month before the day?

If you ask an American how they structure their dates, you can receive a defensive reaction like’my jumper isn’t on back to front, it’s supposed to have the v at the back!’

But, let’s be honest, it’s strange. It’s odd, as evidenced by basic group behavior. Despite the fact that other date formats are used all around the world, the United States is the only country that insists on using mm-dd-yyyy.

Date formats around the world

Middle-endianness is the medical term for this ailment. Seriously. It comes from the field of computer science, where bytes are sorted by size. Big-endian is when the order has larger numbers at the front, and dates are formatted with the years first (see the likes of China and Mongolia in the map above).

Even stranger, computer scientists obtained the term ‘endianness’ from Jonathan Swift’s epic Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726. It is a royal decree in the fictional kingdom of Lilliput that citizens must open their soft-boiled eggs at the little end. Eggs are cracked from the other end in Blefuscu. Small-endians are Lilliputians, while big-endians are Blefuscudians. Again, take this seriously.

Like the computer scientists, Jonathan Swift was simply suggesting that systems are required to organize even the most insignificant of things. As Danny Cohen puts it, “Swift’s point is that the difference between cracking an egg at the little end and breaking it at the large end is insignificant… but we insist on everyone doing it the same way in order to avoid chaos. We can pick either route because the difference is minor, yet a decision must be taken.”

But why did the Americans make their decision the way they did? In fact, the dozens upon hundreds of chat boards dedicated to the subject demonstrate that no one seems to have a solution. We don’t have any. If you believe you do, please let us know in the comments section below. Other American selections appear to be perplexing to Googlers (most of whom are small-endians).

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