We’re now into the fifth month of the French Republican Calender – Pluviôse. The name comes from pluviosus, which is Latin for rainy. It begins on 20 January. It’s not the most logical name as February (two-thirds of which falls into Pluviôse) is, on average, the driest month of the year for Paris, and joint-third driest (with January and September) for the whole of France.

Last month, Nivôse, apart from days 5, 15 and 25 which as always are named after animals and 10, 20 and 30 which are named after agricultural tools, all the days were named after “mineral substances of agricultural use”. This month we revert to the more usual adoption of plants as the source of each day’s name. So for Pluviôse we have, in order: Spurge-laurel, moss, butcher’s broom, snowdrop, BULL, viburnum tinus, tinder polypore, mezereum, poplar, AXE, hellebore, broccoli, bay-laurel, filbert, COW, box tree, lichen, yew, lungwort, BILLHOOK, pennycress, rose daphne, couch grass, common knotgrass, HARE, woad, hazel, cyclamen, celandine, SLEIGH.

Pluviôse

There seems to be a bit of duplication in some of these names. Bulls and cows are just male and female versions of the same animal after all, and mezereum is sometimes called spurge laurel too, giving us three different mentions of laurel in one month. Filbert is a species of hazel, so that tree gets mentioned twice. But, to be fair, it must have been a tough job to find unique names for each day of the year.

A famous Pluviôse date is 16 Pluviôse Year II (= 4 February 1794). The National Assembly abolished slavery in all French colonies and declared all men equal, regardless of the colour of the skin. Tragically, this anti-slavery stance lasted for only eight short years.

This Pluviôse has got off to a very cold, windy start. We’ll just have to wait and see how wet it turns out to be.