Pfoo, missed a good opportunity. Yesterday was leap day, giving me a chance to roll out a new word from Merriam-Webster's dictionary: bissextile year. It means, um, leap year.

So Julius Caesar recognized the need for an extra day every four years, and he put it into February. The Romans stuck that extra day after the 24th. They also had a custom of calling the last few days of a month according to how far they were from the start of the next month. Now, Merriam-Webster's tells me that Feb 24th was called sextus because it was six days before March 1st. That certainly isn't the case anymore, but February did have 30 days, once upon a time. However, it was Julius Caesar himself who moved the extra days (into July and August, for him and his pal), so I'm struggling with my chronology. My best guess: The custom of calling 2/24 "sextus" was in place before Julius's time; Julius decreed the need for an extra day every four years, so it was stuck in after 2/24 and called "bissextus" (second sextus); then Julius went and redistributed the days, but the bissextus name stuck.

Leap Day gets a Latin name meaning "the second sixth-day-before-March." Although all the conditions that made that true have changed, the term "bissextile year" is still used for leap year. By someone.

(Merriam-Webster posted it as their word of the day, but it is not in their on-line dictionary.)

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