Common Era

It’s been suggested that I change all references on Omniglot to AD and BC to CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era). The usage of AD/BC is apparently offensive to some non-Christians. Usage of CE/BCE seems to be increasing, at least in some places.

While the Common Era system makes no mention of Christianity, it also starts counting at the supposed birth of Jesus Christ, though nobody is quite sure exactly when that happened.

There’s some background info on Wikipedia

An alternative solution to this problem is discussed at – the author proposes calling the current millenium the International Era (I.E.) – an interesting idea, I think.

What do you think? Are similiar things going on in other languages?

This entry was posted in Language.

12 Responses to Common Era

  1. Bill Walsh says:

    Not sure why “common era” isn’t “Christian era,” since that’d at least be accurate, like “A.H.” is “anno hegiræ” or the Year of the Ḥijra. I tend to think that A.D./B.C. has the force of tradition and custom, and its usage no more commits a non-Christian to endorsing the Domini part of the statement than saying “Christmas” or “Christianity” commits a non-Christian to affirming the Christhood of Jesus. Seems a tad overwrought.

  2. Thomas Maska says:

    How tedious would it be to go and change all of the dates just because a small crowd of people want to feel important by forcing people to contour to their opinions. They may say “we are offended by your ‘Christian’ dates.” To that I would repond “I am offended by your intollerance.” Simon, it is your webiste. You should do what you believe.

  3. Jimmy says:

    I think that personally AD and BC should be kept after all if we got rid of AD and BC we might as well change the year 2006 as well to something more politically correct as 2006 is circa 2006 years after the birth of Jesus. Don’t give in. Freedom of speech and expression.

  4. Mike says:

    Should people with the names Christopher or Christina (or similar) change their names, just because somebody might be offended by the “Christ-” element? No. The BC/AD system, while referencing Christ, is simply tradition and does not force any particular spiritual belief on anybody, and should therefore not be changed.

  5. Glanthor says:

    In Hungarian we use the abbreviation pairs „kr. e.”/„kr. u.” and „i. e.”/„i. sz.” In english: kr. e. -> krisztus előtt = before christ, kr. u. -> krisztus után = „after christ”, i. e. -> időszámításunk előtt ~ according to our time counting, „i. e.” -> időszámításunk előtt ~ before our time counting. There is neither a rule nor practice to use either one, generally we don’t bother with it. In my opinion anybody who prefer either one in english (BC/AD or BCE/CE) should use that one, but I like the BC/AD, and I think it’s a historical legacy (none the less I’m an atheist).

  6. Sam says:

    I also think that the changing of our entire calender would be completely unnessesary and by using the current one you really do not submit to spiritual belief. There are also a good number of christians who hold to their beleif and who, if the system were changed, would have a fit. There are oposing sides, so until there is a proposal in change greater than BC/AD and BCE/CE, I think that you should choose which one fits you, and things won’t be too bumpy.

  7. Thomas Maska says:

    As long as the church of Christ lives BC/AD will never fall out of use. I agree with Glanthor as well, it has always been BC/AD. Why change it now?

  8. TJ says:

    Well, for me as a muslim, we always use the AD/BC system in our daily lives. If there was a muslim who is offended by such a system I guess he need to fix something in his mind because christians or muslims, both glorify Jesus, but let’s say in different manners. The Hejira system is used mainly here to date the main religious events for us, but otherwise all the dates (including the national day) are all specified by the western system. In Archaeology for example, they use another system called the BPT (before present time) and the reference point is 1950AD and this year is proposed because the radiocarbon dating was discovered at that year (as far as I remember). However, still it is more balanced as far as I can see, to use the AD/BC system for dating mainly because the oldest known record is made around 4000BC (or maybe earlier? someone helps me here plz). I think this year is somehow balanced when you compare it to our time (we are in 2000’s and that was done 4000BC, gives a sense that the birth of Jesus was in the mid point in between like how the X-Y axes would cross each other at the zero point).
    I don’t think another system would give a consistent timing or imagination of timing as the AD/BC does. But, it would be interesting to combine the dates and compare them with each other when doing a research about something historical I guess. That way we can make a project of some event that is only recorded in some method into AD/BC and that way you can convert it to other dating methods AND you would be able to make a view of how the world was like at that time especially in lands where the AD/BC was the main dating method!

    >> Mr Walsh: Hijra or Hejira is with “H” without a dot 🙂
    Thanks all!

  9. BCE/CE is just a euphemism. Here in Thailand, the system used most often is พุทธศักราช (phoottha sakgaraat) or Buddhist Era. When western usage is used, Thai speakers usually just say “2006” or something to that effect; BC/AD is implied by parataxis. Personally, I feel just as B.E. counts the years since the Buddha’s Enlightenment, BC/AD is centered on the life of Jesus. Whichever system one uses, one has to choose some point of origination.

    As things horological were often tied to religion in many cultures, the various calendars of the world have religious artefacts. For example, as the popularlity of the Babylonian 7-day week grew, different cultures appropriated the system and changed the names of the days to fit their mythologies. This is evident even in the Thai calendar; Sunday is วันอาทิตย (lit. ‘Sun’ day), Monday is วันจันทร (lit. ‘moon’ day), and so on, following the original Babylonian scheme. Wednesday is interesting though…Wednesday is วันพุธ (wan phoot), which is a very sophisticated pun. “พุธ” (phoot) can be the planet Mercury or as seen above a reference to the Buddha. According to legend, the Buddha was born, Enlightened, and died, all on a Wednesday. Anyway, my point is that when dealing with calendars, it is impossible to get away from religion, so one should use the religio-mythos that one feels comfortable with.

  10. Delano says:

    The website uses the B.C.E/C.E. date system, and they receive endless attacks because of it.

    The moral of the story; no matter what you do, you will “offend” someone.

    Since omniglot is not a religious site, I see no reason why you have to appeal to anyone’s particular faith.

    I am not even a Christian myself and even I know where to draw the line with “political correctness” 🙂

  11. In Israel we say “L’vriyat ha’olam” which is, “From the creation of the world”. The English version of this is A.M., Anno Mundi. It’s basically the traditional Jewish Calendar. The Western Calendar, though, is not uncommon at all. For it we say”Lisfirat hanotzrim” (Christian Era C.E.) and “Lifnei sfirat hanotzrim” (Before Christian Era, B.C.E.)

  12. Leonard Juska says:

    I want to compliment the writers/readers of this site (Omniglot – the blog). It’s not common in this era to see such calm, mature(?) discussion without someone throwing a fit. It appears that some people had/have given this thought before this era of discussion.

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