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Letter to America: The Era Formerly Known as A. D. On:2022-12-30 10:50:18

My Dear Americans,
    "The Monk Arnulphus uncorked his ink
That shone with a blood-red light...
The Porphyrogenita Zoë the fair
Is about to wed with a Prince much older,—" ¹

Gah!! Sorry, sorry. Oh dear! I left out a huge chunk of that poem and anyway that's the wrong monk! I meant to say "Dionysius Exiguus uncorked his ink", and I have absolutely no idea what colour it was.

I just don't know what I was thinking, for goodness sake everyone knows Dionysius's a few hundred years AD earlier than dear old Arnulphy.
Anyway, talking of chronological misattribution, which is what I guess I was doing, I must register my horror and dismay at the viciously and politically correct modern habit of substituting CE for AD in dates! Bloody annular hypocrisy, 'Common Era'!? I mean it's not as if this era is even particularly common (unless in the "Oh! My Dear how common!" sense), hence my Horror and Dismay.
So to make sense of my H'n'D at that bit of PC, lets do some Hist'ry.
After the Diocletianic Persecution of AD 303 and the Constantinian Un-persecution of the Edict of Milan ten years later, authorities abandoned their practice of killing Christians of every sort, and began to inch slowly towards the eventually much more interesting task of killing Christians of the wrong sort². It was a period of organisation (so that eventually they could determine exactly who was the wrong sort), and one of the things they needed for this was the proper date for Easter each year, and for that a date for the Incarnation, and for all of that, a computus (an early form of computer consisting of a Monk, a pen and some ink of indeterminate colour). And that's where Dionysius came in, 'cause he dunnit! He was a few (well, six or so) years out, and he did go straight from 1 BC to AD1 with no year zero but what the hey.
Now if you are not happy with the religious connotations of our current dating system, tough luck. Whether you like it or not that's what is is, and if you don't there are a lot of alternatives to using the old "names have been changed to protect the innocent", or more likely the guilty, ploy.
Among these many alternatives are:
The Holocene era which is based on a VERY rough estimate of the start of agriculture, neolithic tools and the like beginnings of us mucking up the planet. It does merely add 10,000 years to AD dates (and presumably 9,999 to BC dates) so it's really sort of based on Dionysius' stuff. And it far out-does AD in that it's probably a few hundred years out.
Then there's Anno Mundi, the Year of the World, also religious and based on the notion that the world was created on 6 October 3761 BC. That one beats both of those by being roughly four and a half billion years out.
Or perhaps as a reductio ad minus absurdum we could use the one true count of years, PMS, Post Magno Sonitu, after the Big Bang.
Of course giving the date as thirteen billion, seven hundred and eighty-seven million, four thousand two hundred and seventy-three would get old pretty quickly.
But anyway, by far my most favourite alternative of all is BP, nothing to do with British Petroleum, but instead referring to years Before Present. 'Present' in this case being, not as you might expect, today, or even last Thursday but what was the present back at the beginning of the nineteen-fifties, to whit 1st January 1950, for various Physical and Astronomical (rather than Psychical and Astrological) reasons, but mainly because it was at the beginning of what academics call the 'Nyaa! Nyaa! My H-bomb's bigger than you-urs!" period of history (and a testing period that was), plus they had a handy and large quantity oxalic acid dihydrate in 1954 down at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards to calibrate it with.
At the moment BP's almost exclusively used for scientific things, like carbon dating, but since it has the benefit of being A) spot on, whilst B) avoiding excessive use of billions it would be the perfect era. Of course if we do adopt it for all dating purposes I, for one, would hope there is an AP, After Present, to flesh out BP (and if there isn't there ought to be) because then, just think, I would be writing this 73 years in the future...
Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me!


1 It's definitely worth quoting the whole poem...
The Court Historian by George Walter Thornbury
The Monk Arnulphus uncorked his ink
   That shone with a blood-red light
Just now as the sun began to sink;
   His vellum was pumiced a silvery white;
"The Basileus"— for so he began—
"Is a royal sagacious Mars of a man,
   Than the very lion bolder;
He has married the stately widow of Thrace—"
  "Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

His palette gleamed with a burnished green,
   Bright as a dragon-fly's skin:
His gold-leaf shone like the robe of a queen,
   His azure glowed as a cloud worn thin,
Deep as the blue of the king-whale's lair:
"The Porphyrogenita Zoë the fair
   Is about to wed with a Prince much older,
Of an unpropitious mien and look—"
  "Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.
The red flowers trellised the parchment page,
   The birds leaped up on the spray,
The yellow fruit swayed and drooped and swung,
   It was Autumn mixed up with May.
(O, but his cheek was shrivelled and shrunk!)
"The child of the Basileus," wrote the Monk,
  "Is golden-haired—tender the Queen's arms fold her.
Her step-mother Zoë doth love her so—"
  "Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

The Kings and Martyrs and Saints and Priests
   All gathered to guard the text:
There was Daniel snug in the lions' den
   Singing no whit perplexed—;
Brazen Samson with spear and helm—;
"The Queen," wrote the Monk,"rules firm this realm,
   For the King gets older and older.
The Norseman Thorkill is brave and fair—"
  "Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

2  See, for example:
  Byzantine Iconoclasm
  Albigensian Crusade
  Hussite Wars
  Seven Years' War
  Thirty Years War
  English Civil War
  The Troubles
Though to be honest, it's usually not just slight doctrinal differences that cause the mayhem.

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