Posts Tagged ‘February’


Posted in English Stew, General on February 1st, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

The similarity between February and febrile is not just my feverish imagination.  In the old Roman calendar Februarius was the last month of the year, and it seemed an appropriate time to atone for the previous 11 months.  The name “Februarius” is derived from the Latin word “februare”–to purify.  Of course the Gods would expect payment for their favor–and mere vows of future virtue would not impress or convince a Roman deity.  No, the repentant were obliged to sacrifice animals.

But the dead oxen and sheep were not left to rot on the altar.  Very few religions encourage cholera.  No, with all appropriate theatrics, the sacrificed animals were burned and so presumably were the sins of the penitents. The purification required fire, and the name February referred to the burning, “fovere.”

We still have a February, although it is generally dismissed as a runt nuisance.  And we still refer to fever and febrile; now, however, when we are the burning sacrifice, we don’t feel holier for it.