Congratulations, it’s halfway through the week! Time to celebrate with productivity, sex or “victory bread.”
This is part 3 in a 7-part series on the meaning, facts, pop culture and inspiration contained within the history and psychology of each day of the week.
Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday| Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday
There’s a weeklong scale in our minds that balances out our days. On Wednesdays, we find some solace in the notion that, as the day progresses, more of the work or school week is behind us than is still to come.
If Monday is the head of a spitting, cantankerous camel and Friday is its backside (good riddance, foul beast!), than Wednesday is the camel’s mid-section — and famous for it.
Welcome to Hump Day, which — like “cocktail” or “speed bump” — sounds dirtier than it is. But it can be as sexy as you want, or a day to dig-in for a burst of productivity before you start the long slide into weekend prep.
Germans — blessed, practical Germans — call this day “Mittwoch” which simply means “mid-week,” with Slavic languages following them into etymological obviousness. More fun is Winnie the Pooh’s blustery malapropism: “winds-day.”
But in the English language, the name’s origin comes from “Woden’s Day;” Woden is a Norse god also known as Odin. His son, Thor, is thus honored a day later.
Odin is always depicted as missing an eye. According to legend he sacrificed it to drink water from the Mimir, the wiseman’s well, which gives its customers the gift of wisdom. An eye in exchange for wisdom is a small but metaphorically ironic price to pay.
In languages that have their roots in Latin, Wednesday is named after the planet Mercury, itself named for the fleet-footed Roman messenger god. Thus, in Spanish this day is called “Miércoles,” in French it is “Mercredi,” and in Italian it is “Mercoledì.” Why the Ancients needed a god for fast messages only seems clear in recent years as we dispatch emails, Slacks and texts on this busy work day named for it.
But who are you going to believe: polled human resources managers or Johnny Cash? As the Man in Black logically argues in his song “Wednesday’s Car,” it’s best to get things done in the middle of the week because the workers were “living it up” on the weekend and still suffering on Monday and even Tuesday. (Still being hungover two days later, however, is a sign you need some professional help.)
Thursdays and Fridays are no good either, Cash explains, because they’re just racing toward the next weekend. But Wednesdays “they’re feeling fine again” and “they’re working like a dog and digging in.”
(And by the way, you’ve made it just beyond the middle of this article. Happy hump paragraph! Let’s head toward the weekend!)
Speaking of digging in, my favorite historical footnote about Wednesdays involves the US Food Administration (as it was called during World War I), which started a campaign to ration certain items for the war effort.
“Food Will Win the War,” was a rallying cry to inspire folks not to waste or hoard food and to voluntarily restrict the use of meat, dairy, sugar and other staples.
On “Wheatless Wednesdays” they were asked to reduce flour consumption by 25%. Victory Bread was invented, which was made with 20% non-wheat ingredients. The effort was a success, with more than 100 million bushels being sent to the European front. Victory never tasted so ordinary.
Wednesdays have a dark side, though. Suicides peak on Wednesdays according to a study from about 10 years ago. That may have something to do with a separate research that analyzed blog posts published from day to day and found Wednesdays were the least happy in terms of the language writers used.
This just reinforces that “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” according to the (scientifically ludicrous) folk poem “Monday’s Child” which predicts personality types based on the day a child is born. That poem was the inspiration for Charles Addams to name his moody Girl in Black.
Finally, we can’t ignore that “hump day” conjures more lascivious notions for some. So, if you’re looking to increase your humping for the sake of your relationship, Wednesday is appropriate.
Some therapists recommend the seemingly unromantic scheduling of a sex night as a way to foster more connection. The argument is that planned intimacy is better than a lack of it.
The comic band Flight of the Conchords wrote a song that endorses this fun way to celebrate hump day. In their song “Business Time,” the duo explain “the conditions are perfect” for a scheduled Wednesday sex night because “there’s nothing good on TV.”
But that was before cord cutting, when we were slaves to the networks, back when “Must-See TV” was an American branding campaign that declared the best day of television was Thursday (the subject of the next story in this series).
As for making Wednesdays better: Any day of the week holds the capacity to be your favorite. All it requires is taking control of it and bending it to your will, the subject of my story on hacking your week for CNN.com.