Making Sense with Numbers

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

On Forensic Fridays, we dissect the English language to see what it’s made of and how to use it properly. Well, at least we do that on most Fridays.

Today’s subject isn’t exactly a matter of grammar, although it does pertain to communicating. It’s more a matter of simple math and common sense.

I read two different obituaries this week—yes, I do read them since people my age appear there now and then—involving people approaching their 71st birthdays but proclaiming in the text that they were in their 70th year. Really?

Does that mean before their first birthdays they were in their zeroeth year? I don’t think so. The day you were born, you entered your first year of life. At the end of that year, you had your first birthday and entered your second year of life.

Since we don’t consider the day of birth to be our first birthday, each birthday ends the year it signifies. Turned 35 on your last birthday? Then you’re in your 36th year right now.

Similarly, since there is no such thing as the year zero, New Year’s Day of year 1 represented the end of year one and the beginning of year two. Right now, we are in the 2013th year of the Christian calendar. New Year’s Eve will mark the end of that year and the beginning of the 2014th year. Next year will be designated 2013 because we will have completed 2013 years as we enter it.

As I said above, it’s not rocket science—just logic and simple math. No grammar involved here, but let’s do try to communicate in a rational manner.

What grammatical misuse bothers you? What particular area of grammar would you like help with? I’d love to hear and help.


For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

For more information about his books, click on “Books” above.

Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.


About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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8 Responses to Making Sense with Numbers

  1. Sherry Isaac says:

    David, I remember learning how to make that distinction in a grade six history class. (The year 1536 was in the 16th century.) To be fair, while I did pick up on that nugget of knowledge–a subtle change in the teacher’s drone, perhaps?–I did zone out on complete lessons.


  2. Lynn says:

    “New Year’s Day of year 1 represented the end of year one and the beginning of year two.” If New Year’s Day is the first day of the year, then how is it the end of year one? What was the date at the beginning of year one? I was with you up until this paragraph, but then my brain went fuzzy. I do understand the idea that a millennium begins on year 1 (or 1801, or 1901, or 2001…) and ends at year 1000 (or 1900, or 2000, or 2100…) so our big millennium bashes were technically off by a year…

    It is Friday and I was out late last night and up early this morning, so perhaps that explains my ignorance. 🙂


  3. “The day you were born, you entered your first year of life.”

    I don’t know, David! Some people say that life starts at conception. If this is true, assuming a normal pregnancy & delivery, we come out of our cookers at around 9 months. So at our 1st birthday, we are actually already 21 months.

    I don’t subscribe to this premise, but I’m just throwing it out there.

    We are awfully consumed by age. If someone makes it to 98, I’m okay with letting it slide if she wants to tell people she is almost 100. 😉


    • Actually, I agree that life begins at conception, but nobody celebrates a first birthday three months after delivery. Age is commonly measured from the date of birth, not the date of conception, even by us pro-lifers.


      • I was just honking your horn. IYKWIM. 😉

        But seriously, Jewish girls have baby naming ceremonies that often take place at three months. But, no, we don’t say our kids are a year old. 😉 That would be ridiculous!


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