spanish dates

I enjoy the changed logos that Google offers to commemorate different occasions. They’re usually pretty much the same for the .com and versions, but I notice that they don’t always appear if I’m using the Spanish version of the search (

This morning, however, I find a symbol on the .es version that is not on the English language pages: 11-m

The little red icon is so small that it’s hardly identifiable, but zooming in, it clarifies into a votive candle, and the mouse-over text reads “En recuerdo a las víctimas del 11M“.

All around the world, people remember and commemorate “9-11”, but surprisingly few seemed to even notice that 911 days after that, Madrid suffered its own atentados with 191 people killed and nearly 2000 injured.

There were ten explosions on four communter trains on their way into Madrid on the 11th of March 2004, and the way the government handled the information is said to have had an effect on the result of the general election held on the 14th. That’s just a little bit of background to explain the context but there’s plenty more on the web, including on wikipedia, where I notice that the Spanish version of the article is flagged as of doubtful neutrality.

Here, though, I wanted to look at the different way the dates are expressed.

I always find “9-11” sounds more like a supermarket chain than anything else, and I’ve never got used to the way the American date format works (mm/dd/yyyy rather than dd/mm/yyyy, the way we express dates in (most of?) Europe.) The sequencing of smallest unit (day) to largest (year) makes sense to me.

Of course we write times from largest to smallest – hours, minutes then seconds – so I’d be equally happy to use yyyy/mm/dd.

In Spanish, it’s common to see expressions just using a number and a letter: 11-M is enough for everyone to know it refers to the masacre del 11 de marzo, 23-F is the Golpe de Estado (1981) and 20-N is a call to the extreme right to take to the streets to commemorate the death of the Generalísimo Franciso Franco. (I do love the word generalísimo: I think it makes it sound as if he was very, very general instead of being really quite specific.)

The number letter combination is read as just that: 11-M is pronounced once eme. What will happen if something important happens on the 11th of May, I don’t know. How will we ever be sure if the M stands for marzo or mayo? What about junio and julio? and abril and agosto?

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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