March: An Action Verb, An Awful Month

If April is the cruelest month, it is because March is awful.

There are multiple reasons not to like the month of March. Some are weather related (Blizzard 1993), others are personal (my father passed away on March 2nd, 1990).  Despite the arrival of robins and the daffodil shoots pushing through the earth, March is a month not to be trusted….just ask Julius Caesar (“Et tu, Brute?”)

The month gets its name from the Roman god of war, Mars, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Not surprising if you consider the military associations of the verb to march:

  • to walk with regular and measured tread, as soldiers on parade; advance in step in an organized body; and
  • march on, to march toward, as in protest or in preparation for confrontation or battle.

 Apparently, naming a month for an angry and spiteful mythological god on the move was an  improvement from the Old English hreðmonaþ, which was associated with the mating season of the hare. The qualities “quick, nimble, ready, active, alert” were attributed to the “March hare” as well as the quality of unpredictability, which could mimic…. madness.

"Mad as a March hare"John Tennel, illustrator

“Mad as a March hare”John Tennel, illustrator

 

Hence, the origin of the idiom that Lewis Carroll used  his 1865 children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Mad as a March hare.”

In summation, March = bad weather, bad memories, angry gods, and madness.

Once we are in March, the only choice is to, “to walk in a stately, deliberate manner; to go forward; advance; proceed.”

 

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