Day 610: Blasphemy & Interrobangs… ARRR!!!

originally published September 1, 2013

What greater gift can a month offer than the promise of a long weekend to kick it off? I’ve always been a fan of September, and not only because my birthday stands like a perpetual beacon near its end. This is the month of back to school, sure, but it’s also the month of football, of the new fall TV season, and when nature’s palette swoops manic strokes of brilliance throughout our parks and our river valley, before tossing down its brushes and allowing the cold splash of winter to wipe the canvas back to a drab white..

But what festivities should we toast this month? Well, as I said, my birthday (and the one-year pre-nniversary of this project’s conclusion) rings in on the 27th, right alongside World Tourism Day. This serves as a cruddy reminder that I have never spent a birthday as a tourist; I am 38 for 38 (soon 39 for 39) in this city. Not a statistic to bubble up my pride and September-self-worth.

And yes, Labor Day gets top billing because it brings with it a day off. But there is plenty to cheer for in the merry month of September. Fret not, poor teachers and students who must now slap their weary butts back in those uncomfortable wooden seats – you can still party.

Perhaps the most famous of non-calendar September celebrations – at least in the weirder, more fun corners of the internet – is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Instigated when two guys named John Baur and Mark Summers of Albany, Oregon were playing racquetball (one of them let loose an accidental “Arrr!” when they hurt themselves), this holiday was popularized when nationally syndicated columnist and renowned rock “musician” Dave Barry unleashed it upon his audience in 2002.

On this day – September 19 – people are encouraged to replace ‘hello’ with ‘ahoy’, and refer to their friends as ‘mateys’. I personally plan to consume some rum, and maybe even switch my Facebook to pirate-speak (an actual language setting) for the day. Perhaps the greatest thing about International Talk Like A Pirate Day is the fact that it is quickly drifting into the mainstream – the State of Michigan has now officially recognized it. Stick that in Davy Jones’ Locker and smoke it.

Looking for an excuse to spend the day barefoot and maybe snarf down a celebratory second breakfast? Since 1978, Hobbit Day has been observed by Tolkienites around the world on September 22. This is seen as both Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, though of course there’s some dispute about that among people who take this shit way too seriously. But fans of JRR’s series of fantasy texts tend to select this day to throw parties and geek out.

And why not? We’ve already got Tolkien Reading Day in March, which honors the anniversary of the Fall of Sauron (spoiler!), but a body of work as epic as this deserves a second day of commemoration. Even those of us who are somehow not caught up in the Mayhem Of The Rings can still appreciate the importance of the work, and besides, it gets kids reading. Or alternately, it gets them to watch long movies about walking.

For those of us who view drinking coffee as both an innard-toasting moment of bliss as well as a non-negotiable necessity, having a day devoted to the beverage seems unnecessary. I don’t take my morning coffee for granted; every morning’s first sip summons the tactile equivalent of a harmonious choral ahhhhh, flowering in the nucleus of my midsection. Of all my daily routines and chronic vices, coffee never suffers from a lack of appreciation.

That said, a number of businesses honor International Coffee Day on September 29 by offering freebies or discounts, so that’s a day well worth observing.

For those of you who feel the need to ponder the mysteries of the universe, then to skirt over the big questions and wonder aloud whether or not the residents of the Big Brother house really like Julie Chen or if they only pretend to, you should feel honored that September 28 – Ask A Stupid Question Day – exists solely for you.

Actually, the day was conceived as a way to encourage shy kids to blurt out any question in class. That was always the big fear, that your question would be deemed as stupid by the rest of the class, thus crippling your social standing and spiraling you into a life of hard drugs and forgotten dreams. Well, on the 28th you get a pass.

Once you’re all hopped up on coffee and dumb questions, you should feel free to speak your mind on September 30, also known as Blasphemy Day. Started in 2009 by the Center For Inquiry, a nonprofit group promoting secular education, this is supposed to be the day everyone should feel free to question, criticize and openly disagree with organized religion, if they see fit to do so. Keeping along the same tenets as any group who pushes religious tolerance and acceptance, I think this one is a good idea.

Blasphemy laws still exist in a number of European countries, as well as in six US states (and no, most of them actually aren’t in the deep south). The Republic of Ireland passed a law in 2009 that threatens up to a 25,000 Euro fine for uttering or publishing blasphemous matter. I don’t know if simply stating “There is no God” would be enough to invoke this law, but I’m a little frightened to find out. Speak your mind on September 30, everyone.

English teachers all over will be celebrating National Punctuation Day on September 24, or at least I think they will. A guy named Jeff Rubin founded this day in 2004 in hopes people will pay attention to their use of punctuation, and perhaps to correct the faulty punctuation of others. This strikes me as a desperate attempt to fight the lowered standards of the internet and text-message era, and while I praise Mr. Rubin for giving it a shot, I think our society may be beyond saving.

Some have speculated that National Punctuation Day has been responsible for promoting the use of the interrobang, the character depicted above. This is a good space-saving character, designed to replace the double-use of sentence-concluding punctuation in instances of exclaimed interrogation. So, “You pooped on whose front porch?!?!” can be replaced with “You pooped on my front porch‽”

A good celebration can change the world, people. Happy September. And remember – the 27th is a good day to buy presents for hopeless writers with a year remaining on their self-imposed sentence of linguistic endurance.

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