I have been accused of sketchy world-building. This accusation is probably mostly accurate, because my world-building has in general focused on those bits I needed for my books. I have no creationist history, no fancy exotic animals and no fully-worked out background to my magic system. That said, I do have a couple of background things that I have worked out, up to a point, and one of them is a very basic calendar.
Let me make one thing clear right from the start: I have quite deliberately kept my timekeeping pretty simple. My books are about the romance, and I will readily admit that I saw no need to think up a really complicated timekeeping system that would only detract from that. As such a year is a year, a month is a month, a week is a week and a day is a day. I have never bothered to think up names for the days of the week, because I haven’t needed them yet.
What I did need were names for the months, which left me briefly stumped. What to use? I couldn’t use our names of course, because while I’m all for keeping it simple, to use month names like January and October in a fantasy world would have jarred too much. On the other hand I didn’t want to think up really complicated names that meant nothing, because they wouldn’t stick with anyone, least of all me. In the end I kept this pretty simple as well: in Dutch each month has an old, traditional name which is at least a century out of fashion. Very few people can name them, and the only reason I knew about them is because they constantly crop up in crosswords, and my mum is an avid crossworder.
So, with that settled I looked up the list of months in Wikipedia, and translated them into English. This gives the following list of months:
Icemonth – Equivalent to January. In Dutch this month is called the Louwmaand, which is actually something I couldn’t translate. I haven’t got a clue what ‘louw’ is, so instead I picked Icemonth, because, you know, winter.
Gathermonth – Equivalent to February. The Dutch name is Sprokkelmaand, which presented another problem. Sprokkelen is a verb which is only ever used in conjunction with wood, and it means gathering firewood from the forest, which is something you need to do a lot in February to keep your house warm. Hence the Gathermonth.
Springmonth – Equivalent to March. This is a straightforward translation of Lentemaand.
Grassmonth – Equivalent to April. Another simple translation of Grasmaand. I presume it’s called that because the grass starts to grow or something.
Blossommonth – Equivalent to May. The Dutch name is Bloeimaand, which could come from either the verb bloeien, which means ‘to blossom’, or the noun bloei, which means ‘to be in bloom’. Since Blossommonth sounds better than Bloommonth I picked the verb instead.
Summermonth – Equivalent to June. The Dutch name is Zomermaand.
Haymonth – Equivalent to July. In Dutch this is the Hooimaand, which is obviously the month in which hay is harvested.
Harvestmonth – Equivalent to August. The Dutch name is Oogstmaand, and apparently the word oogst is actually a bastardisation of August. Funny how things go around like that.
Fallmonth – Equivalent to September. In Dutch this is the Herfstmaand, and herfst is the Dutch word for autumn. Strictly speaking I should have called this month the Autumnmonth, but that was such a clumsy construction that I – reluctantly – opted to use the American word fall instead.
Winemonth – Equivalent to October. The Dutch is Wijnmaand, and it is called so because this is when wine grapes are harvested.
Storemonth – Equivalent to November. The Dutch word is Slachtmaand, which actually means Slaughtermonth, but I figured that was a bit macabre. Since the slaughtering refers to slaughtering your cattle in preparation for winter, I chose to use Storemonth instead, to refer to storing your food and goods in your larder.
Wintermonth – Equivalent to December. The Dutch is Wintermaand. Confusingly, this is also sometimes referred to as the Snowmonth (Sneeuwmaand), while January can also be called the Wintermonth.
My months all have thirty days, because seriously? That whole 31-30-28-(but-not-always)-31-etc. shit is just unnecessary for my world.
When it comes to measuring anything shorter than a day I have chosen to use the word ‘measure’. It equates to an hour, but I’ve just given it a different name. If you want a proper explanation then I can say that time is measured by water clocks in my world, and a measure refers to the time it takes for a container to be filled before it then empties and starts again. I will honestly say that I have never seen a water clock in my life, but I imagine mine to have a container that needs refilling every so often, which drips out into the ‘measure’, which periodically empties itself into a bottom container, kind of like those funky bamboo things you see in Japanese gardens. Except they’re made of glass, or you couldn’t see how full the ‘measure’ is.
So, a measure is an hour. This is further sub-divided into either half-measures, quarter-measures or tenth-measures. I have no equivalent to a minute – a tenth-measure is around five minutes, give or take, and if you want anything shorter than that you get into heartbeats or moments, which are my equivalent of seconds (and boy did that require some tidying up, because you have no idea how instinctive it is to use expressions like ‘give me a second’ or ‘split-second’).
I know I have confused at least one person with my use of measure, because they thought it was both a measure of time and distance. Let me clarify here that it isn’t: distance is measured in miles, yards and feet. I know that at some point in book one I say that ‘they walked for three measures’, but that was an indication of time, not distance. This is probably due to my own peculiarity, which is that I never measure distances in actual distance, I always measure it in time. I have no idea how far away I live from my workplace in distance, only that it takes me an hour to get there by slow bus. (Or 40 minutes by fast bus, or 30 minutes if my colleague picks me up in her car.) To me that’s just a more useful way of measuring distance, and I translated that into my book without thinking.
So, nothing too complicated there, though it’s maybe a little more than some people were expecting. Yes, my world-building is fairly sketchy, but it isn’t entirely non-existent.