T.S Eliot wrote that April is the cruellest month. He obviously didn’t write that part of “The Waste Land” in February.
I don’t know what it is that makes February so bad (in the Northern Hemisphere). Obviously it’s mainly the weather, but it’s not so much worse than in January.
I think it’s also because spring seems so close, so you feel like the weather should be better, but it hasn’t quite caught up to that idea. So we get frustrated that we still have to endure a few more weeks of freezing rain. It was even worse for me as a child, because for some reason the ancient Celtic calendar had spring beginning at the start of February. Primary-school teachers would gleefully tell us that 1st February was the start of spring, and I’d expect daffodils and gambolling lambs to suddenly appear in the rain.
1st February is still marked to an extent in Ireland, celebrated as St. Brigid’s Day. People make Brigid’s Crosses, like the one above, from rushes, which were traditionally put above doors to protect homes from harm.
Of course there probably was no historical St. Brigid, as by an amazing coincidence, her feast day happens to fall on the same day as Imbolc, the ancient Celtic spring festival celebrating the pagan fertility goddess Brigid. The name of this festival probably comes from the Old Irish i mbolc (i mbolg in modern Irish), meaning in the belly, probably in reference to pregnant sheep (see? the lambs wouldn’t be gambolling yet).
Another hard thing about February is pronouncing it. I often come across people complaining about others not pronouncing that first R. It doesn’t seem so complex when you look at it, but even if you pride yourself on pronouncing it correctly, you have to admit that it doesn’t trip naturally off the tongue.
It’s got four syllables after all, which is a lot for an eight-letter word. The real problem though is the combination of the B and the R. We can often put the two together. We have no problem with the word brew, for example, which seems to have the same sound as the bru in the middle of February.
The two are subtly different though, and it’s all thanks to the Fe… at the beginning. We can’t help but pronounce Feb as one syllable, with ru being the second. We therefore can’t link the B and the R together like in the word brew. We have to separate Feb… and …ru just that little bit with the tiniest of pauses and a change in stress between the two.
It’s that pause that feels very awkward for people. But removing the R does away with the awkward transition. The B slides much more easily into the U, and it’s therefore altogether very tempting to drop the R, intentionally or not.
And while I understand that it might be annoying, does it really matter if someone mispronounces it? It’s still pretty obvious which month they mean, isn’t it? It’s not like you to get a book from the libary to figure it out.