How our languages talk about February 29

Issue 55: 1/3/2024 ,

Dear Parents,

Since this only happens once every four year, I wanted to wish you all a happy leap year! And take this opportunity, as we are in a culturally French and globally-minded school (Strategic objective 1.5 in our strategic plan), to educate ourselves on the interesting difference in how our two languages address this specificity of our calendar.

In French, 2024 is considered “une année bissextile“, while in English it is considered “a leap year”. The French nomenclature is historical and etymological in essence, referring to the fact that when Caesar reformed the calendar, this day was considered as a repetition (bis) of the 6th day before the Calends of March, or ante diem bis sextum Kalendas Martias, hence “bissextile“. In English, leap year refers to the fact that a fixed date in our Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, but will advance two days in the case of a leap year (for example January 1st was on a Sunday in 2023, a Monday in 2024, but will fall on a Wednesday in 2025). (Source: Wikipedia)

So which one do you prefer: the French or the English? Maybe ask your children at home (a) if they know there is a different term in French and in English, and what it is, (b) to do a research to find out why and (c) to vote on their preference? And if you speak mandarin at home, up to you to discuss 闰二月…


Dr. Emmanuel Bonin
Head of School