Happy new year! People whose first language is a Romance one might be tempted to say “felicitous new year”, judging by the following: feliz ano novo (Portuguese), feliz año nuevo (Spanish), felice anno nuovo (Italian), an nou fericit (Romanian). The one Romance language that doesn’t make much use of felicité this time of the year, funnily enough, is French. It’s more common to wish one another une bonne année or une heureuse année instead. But “New Year” in French is masculine: Nouvel An.
January 1 seems as good a day as any to add some important vocabulary to this blog, the names of the months of the year in my five Romances. We’ve already noted how Portuguese is the odd one out when it comes to the names of the days of the week. So, has it developed a peculiarity with the names of the month as well? Slightly. It’s the only one of the five that uses capital letters for its months.
So, here is a screenshot of a table showing the months in these five Romance languages. Luckily Bernardo cleaned his screen before he took the shot, otherwise you would seen the splotches of spaghetti sauce, ice-cream and caramel topping and all the other foodstuffs that he munched on in 2014 while he was working at the computer. You already know the Portuguese word for January as that was the month that Rio de Janeiro (River of January) in Brazil was discovered. The explorers thought Guanabara Bay was the mouth of a river. And if you have been to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires or heard of the Mothers of the Plaza Mayo you will know that mayo is May – the big square there gets its name from the revolution in May 1810 that eventually led to Argentina’s independence.
Ways to help you remember some of this:
- Apart from Abril, all Portuguese months end in o.
- Apart from April, the first eight months of the year in Italian and Spanish end in o.
- No Romanian or French month ends in o.
- The last four months of the year end in e in all languages except Portuguese.
- Brazilians get Fever-ish in February as carnival approaches.
- Romanians eat brie cheese at the end of the last four months of the year.
- Julio Iglesias was not born in julio, he was born two months later.
- Neither Italian nor Romanian uses j for their equivalents of January, June or July.
Which language do you think is most similar to English when it comes to the months? Which one is the most different?