In a word...

April

Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 01:00

April, sweet, lovely April, is a bit like success. She has many fathers/mothers. But, regardless of such feckless parentage, it’s a month long associated with sex or, in more polite society, that four-letter word – love. Fourth month of the year, it is a time when winter is left behind and the long months of summer beckon (maybe?) with a “come hither” gesture that promises . . . well . . . much!

Slandered by TS Eliot as “the cruellest month”, it is anything but. To be fair, he described it as such because of its “mixing memory and desire” but, in truth, it is more about desire than memory. It looks forward, not back. Such is the optimism associated with the month that girls have been named after it, whether as April or Avril. Only June can compete.

May too, but not very often anymore. And there are all those songs: the ancient April Showers, sung by all and sundry since the 1920s. More recently we’ve had, Deep Purple’s April, Prince’s Sometime it Snows in April, as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s sublime April Come She Wi ll. Sigh. But back to April’s many parents.

One suggestion is that the name is derived from aueril in Old French, which became avril. Another suggestion is that it comes from the Latin “(mensis) Aprilis” meaning “(month) of Venus”, the second month of the ancient Roman calendar, and which was dedicated to Venus the Roman goddess of love.

It could also be derived from Apru, an Etruscan derivative of Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love.

Its current English form is derived from Latin and replaced an older English word Eastermonað, after another goddess of love, Eostre, whose feast was in this month. Note the familiar Easter ring to it, another event which usually happens in April with its attendant symbols of fertility such as eggs and rabbits.

In Middle English it became Apprile, forerunner of our April. Clearly, whatever the language, it is a month long associated with that time of year when the young’s fancy turns to lurve (contemporary corruption of the four letter word love).

And did you know that April starts on the same day of the week as July every year and ends on the same day of the week as December every year. No? I didn’t either. But one of the first things I learned in this life is that April has 30 days, as has September, June, and November. You knew that too! Ok, so.

inaword@irishtimes.com