August: Let's get rid of it!

Previously published Slate articles made new.
Aug. 2 2010 4:19 PM

August

Let's get rid of it.

This past July will likely be the hottest month on record, but even our sweat-soaked, frizzy-haired, power-outage suffering selves won't be looking forward to what follows: the doldrums of August. In an annual Slate tradition, we are republishing Editor David Plotz's 2001 call to reform the month and shorten it to a mere 10 days. The original article is reprinted below.

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August can't even master the things it is supposed to do well. Despite its slothful reputation, it is not the top vacation month, July is. Nor is August the hottest month (on the East Coast, at least). That crown, too, is July's. August is when the garden starts to wither, and when the long summer days cruelly vanish.

We should rage, rage against the dying of the light. The United States desperately needs August Reform. Purists will insist that we shouldn't tinker with the months, that August should be left alone because it has done workmanlike service for 2,000 years. That's nonsense. Calendars are always fluxing. August itself was a whimsical invention. In 46 B.C., as part of a broad calendar change, Julius Caesar added two days to Sextilis, an old 29-day month. In the reign of his successor, Augustus Caesar, the Senate voted to change Sextilis' name to "Augustus" (as the Senate under Julius Caesar had renamed the month before, "Quintilis," "Julius").

August was created by politics, and it can be undone by politics. For too long, bureaucrats in Washington have been telling you how you must divide up your calendar. But these are your months, and you should be able to do with them what you like. Genuine August Reform will be hard. It will require tough compromises to protect the special interests of September and July. (And who better to sponsor this revolution, incidentally, than Sen. John McCain—birthday Aug. 29?)

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Here is a framework for compromise. Cede the first 10 days of August back to July, thus extending holiday revelry for more than a week. September would claim the last 10 days of August, mollifying the folks who can't wait to get back to serious work. Labor Day would come 10 days earlier, the school year would run longer, and the rush of fall activity could get jump-started. August itself will keep 10 days. That is just enough: Every summer we'll be able to toot happily, "Gosh, August went by so quickly this year!"

And as for the 31st day, it will be designated a holiday independent from any month. It will fall after the 10th and last day of August, and it will celebrate the end of that most useless month.

Correction, Aug. 23, 2004: This article originally omitted Bill Clinton from the list of presidents born in August. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

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