Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Marḥeshvan, often known simply as Ḥeshvan. While its name, like that of the other months on the Jewish calendar, is Babylonian in origin, a popular folk etymology understands it to mean “bitter Ḥeshvan” (from the Hebrew mar, meaning bitter)—a testament to the fact that it contains no holidays. A more playful variant takes advantage of the fact that mar can also be an honorific, in modern Hebrew the equivalent of “mister.” In fact, explains Shlomo Zuckier, Marḥeshvan derives from maraḥ shevan, meaning “the eight month,” which it is if you count from the spring month of Nissan as the Bible and ancient Jewish sources often do:
[The 13th-century rabbi Moses] Naḥmanides expresses a certain discomfort with counting months based on names acquired in exile rather than the earlier biblical practice of simply numbering them, starting from [Nissan], the month of the exodus from Egypt. He justifies the current practice by arguing that using the Babylonian names recalls and appreciates God’s returning the Jewish people to Israel following the Babylonian exile. Some religious Zionists have even proposed reverting to counting from the exodus, both for months and for years.
In a sense, then, Marḥeshvan might be seen as the ultimate month name, in that it manages both to retain the Babylonian name and to count from the month of the exodus from Egypt.