Another American Backwards Thing

Just thought of another thing that this country gets consistently wrong in a weird contrarian illogical way: dates.

August 9, 2012Fine, no doubt about the meaning.
2012-08-099th of August 2012. Year-Month-Date. Fine by me. A bit techie - I put this on the end of filenames to make them sort alphabetically and by chronologically at the same time. Works especially well for meeting minutes. Also, it's International Standard 8601, so there's that.
8/9What's this? To my UK eye, this is the 8th of September, because in the UK we go up in order of size of time period. But in the US it means August 9th. OK, this could go either way.
8/9/2012This is the worst for me. By adding in the year at the end, the implication is that we're moving up in the size of time periods, Day to Month to Year. But no, in the US this is 9th August 2012. It really makes me have to stop and think.

OK, it’s just another cultural difference, which I have to get used to. But this one irks me more than some of the others – there’s no logic behind it that I can see (although when explained by an American, they’re adamant that it all makes sense). It’s like a traditional way of thinking causes a need for extra cognitive load and introduces the possibility of error.

WordPress, the software that this site runs on, has an option where you can schedule a post to be published at a later date and time. The options show up as follows:


As you can see, they have to make it clear and say “08-Aug” because they put the month field first.

This stuff was brought into sharp relief in the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and in London in 2005. New York’s attack was on 9-11; September 11th in local parlance. It was obviously terrible international news, but I know that in many countries, people had to think twice about the date, thinking of it as November 9th.

London was easier. 7th July 2005. 7/7. No getting confused there. Everything was very clear on that day.