English Tips – Once in a blue moon
A “blue moon” is also used colloquially to mean “a rare event”.
“My sister lives in Alaska, so I only get to see her once in a blue moon.”
“I don’t know why I bought that CD-ROM for my computer – I only ever use it once in a blue moon.”
“Jill: Does your husband ever bring you flowers?
Ellen: Once in a blue moon.”
“Once in a blue moon I’ll have a beer with friends, but it’s not my regular drink.”
A blue moon can refer to the third full moon in a season with four full moons. Most years have twelve full moons that occur approximately monthly. In addition to those twelve full moons that occur approximately monthly. In addition to those twelve full lunar cycles, each solar calendar year contains roughly eleven days more than the lunar year of 12 lunations. The extra days accumulate, so every two or three years (7 times in the 19-year Metonic cycle), there is an extra full moon. Lunisolar calendars have rules about when to insert such an intercalary or embolismic (“leap”) month, and what name it is given; e.g. in the Hebrew calendar the month Adar is duplicated. The term “blue moon” comes from folklore. Different traditions and conventions place the extra “blue” full moon at different times in the year.
• In calculating the dates for Lent and Easter, the Clergy identify the Lent Moon. It is thought that historically when the moon’s timing was too early, they named an earlier moon as a “betrayer moon” (belewe moon), thus the Lent moon came at its expected time.
• Folklore gave each moon a name according to its time of year. A moon that came too early had no folk name, and was called a blue moon, retaining the correct seasonal timings for future moons.
• The Farmers’ Almanac defined blue moon as an extra full moon that occurred in a season; one season was normally three full moons. If a season had four full moons, then the third full moon was named a blue moon.
• Recent popular usage defined a blue moon as the second full moon in a calendar month, stemming from an interpretation error made in 1946 that was discovered in 1999. For example, December 31, 2009 was a blue moon according to this usage.