Our units of temporal measurement, from seconds on up to months, are so
complicated, asymmetrical and disjunctive so as to make coherent mental
reckoning in time all but impossible. Indeed, had some tyrannical god
contrived to enslave our minds to time, to make it all but impossible
for us to escape subjection to sodden routines and unpleasant surprises,
he could hardly have done better than handing down our present system.
It is like a set of trapezoidal building blocks, with no vertical or
horizontal surfaces, like a language in which the simplest thought
demands ornate constructions, useless particles and lengthy
circumlocutions. Unlike the more successful patterns of language and
science, which enable us to face experience boldly or at least
level-headedly, our system of temporal calculation silently and
persistently encourages our terror of time.
It is as though architects had to measure length in feet, width
in meters and height in ells; as though basic instruction manuals
demanded a knowledge of five different languages. It is no wonder then
that we often look into our own immediate past or future, last Tuesday
or a week from Sunday, with feelings of helpless confusion. ...
— Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living.
This section describes the textual date representations that gnu
programs accept. These are the strings you, as a user, can supply as
arguments to the various programs. The C interface (via the
get_date function) is not described here.