January 20, 2021 a Special Day for USA

palindromes 12021 and 1202021

American English usually writes dates differently to British English. Americans tend to put the month first, then the date, then the year. Because of that, January 20th this year (2021) is a special day in the USA – a palindromic day!

What is a palindrome?

A palindrome is a word, phrase or sequence that reads the same backwards as forwards, for example:

  • madam
  • nurses run

Reverse those examples and the sequence is in the same order:

  • madam
  • nur sesrun

Palindromic dates

The same thing can happen with numbers, including dates. In American English the date January 20th, 2021 (or 20 January 2021 in British English) is normally written as:

  • 1-20-21 (12021)

which is the same sequence if written backwards:

  • 12-02-1 (12021)

Which makes 20 January 2021 a pretty special day in the USA 🙂

The above palindrome is a 5-digit palindrome. But if we write out the year in full (2021) we still have a palindrome, a 7-digit palindrome:

  • 1-20-2021 (1202021)

British English

In British English, the date 20 January 2021 can never be a palindrome:

  • 20-1-21
  • 20-01-21
  • 20-1-2021
  • 20-01-2021

None of the above sequences can be reversed without change, self-evidently because they start with 2 and end with 1.

More palindromes

Some very famous palindromes are:

  • Madam, I’m Adam
    (a reference to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament of the Bible)
  • Able was I ‘ere I saw Elba
    (a jocular reference to the French Emperor Napoleon who was imprisoned by the British on the island of Elba and so lost all ability)

Do you know any more, including numerical palindromes? Please add them in the comments below!

By Editor for EnglishClub January 2021


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