Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

2016

Tomorrow, one number on the celestial odometer will roll over, and we’ll all be inhabiting the year 2017. So let’s take some time to talk about time and the origins of the names of our 12 months.

In his play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare speaks of people who “run before the clock,” as if the hands of the clock would sweep them away if they did not hustle their bustles. Nowadays, so many of us seem to be running harder, working harder and taking fewer and shorter vacations.

In his poem “To His Coy Mistress,” the English poet Andrew Marvell wrote, “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” According to the Oxford English Corpus frequency list, time’s wingèd chariot is running us over.

The Oxford English Corpus list of word frequencies in English confirms this obsession with time and productivity by revealing that time is the most frequently used noun in our language. Year is ranked third, day fifth, work 16th and week 17th.

As the new year starts, you might have recently bought a new diary or calendar, paper or digital, and thought,  “Where do the names of our months come from?” Essentially, there are three sources — Greek and  Roman deities, Roman rulers and numbers:

January is “the month of Janus,” the Roman god of beginnings and endings. Janus  presided over doors and beginnings. appropriate for the beginning of the year. Indeed, Janus was usually depicted with two faces looking backward and forward,  characteristic of a new year.

In our English language repose about 60 words and compounds that we call Janus-faced words because they contain two opposite meanings so look both ways. Let’s look at two examples, out and wind up. When the sun or stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. When I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this disquisition, I end it. Next week, I’ll exhibit a gallery of these pushme-pullyou words and compounds.

 February is “the month of cleansing,” from februa, the name of a Roman purification festival held on the 15th of this month. My former co-host on KPBS, Charles Harrington Elster, and I unstintingly support the pronunciation FEB-roo-ER-ee, rather than the more easily and more often sounding FEB-yoo-ER-ee.

Which god gets a planet and a month named after him? Mars. In ancient Rome, several festivals of Mars took place in March because that was the earliest month of the year when the weather was mild enough to start a war. At one time, March was the first month in the Roman calendar. The Romans changed the order of the months several times between the founding of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire.

April derives from the Latin Aprillis, from the Latin base apero-, “second,” because of the tweaking of the ancient Roman calendar, April was the second month.

The month of May springs from the Greek goddess Maia, daughter of Atlas and mother of Hermes. She was a nurturer and an earth goddess, which  explains her connection with this springtime month in Italy, when and where flowers and crops burst forth.

June descends from the ancient Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage and childbirth.

July is the first month in the calendar that bears the  name of a real person, rather than a deity. July was named in honor of Julius Caesar right after his assassination in 44 BC, July being the month of his birth.

A second Roman ruler is enshrined in August. In 8 BC, the month Sextilis (‘sixth’) was renamed after Augustus, nephew of Julius Caesar and the first emperor of Rome. The emperor’s name came from the Latin augustus, which gave rise to the adjective august, “respected and impressive.”

September, with its derivation from the Latin septem, looks as if it should be the 7th month of the year. And October (octo), November (novem) and December (decem) appear in their structure to be the 8th, 9th and 10th months. And they once were, when the Roman lunar calendar started the year in March at harvest time.

But all that changed in 46 B.C., when January and February became the first two months of the new Julian calendar, making September, October, November and December the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th months of the year.

 And there you have it: a whole calendar year of word origins to see you through the whole of 2017.