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Q&A: What is the purpose of leap year?

Rapper Ja Rule is among famous “leaplings” born on Feb. 29.

Associated Press (2004)

Rapper Ja Rule is among famous “leaplings” born on Feb. 29.

The purpose of leap year

Can you explain what a leap year is, and why we have it?

Earth takes 365 days and 6 hours to orbit the sun. So every four years, an extra day is added at the end of February so the calendar can be in synch with the astronomical year. We had a Feb. 29 in 2008 and will again in 2012.

A person born on Feb. 29 is called a "leapling" or "leaper." They typically celebrate birthdays on Feb. 28 or March 1.

Famous leaplings include rapper Ja Rule, composer Jimmy Dorsey, actor Dinah Shore, French-Polish painter Balthus, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee author Dee Alexander Brown II, hockey player Henri "the Pocket Rocket" Richard, actor Dennis Farina and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

Change in city names explained

When did Peking become Beijing and Bombay become Mumbai?

Mumbai was changed from Bombay in 1995, though the former name remains popular among Westerners. Mumbai is named for the local Hindu goddess Mumbadevi and Aai, or "mother," in Marathi. Portuguese explorers named the area "Bom Bahia" or Good Bay in the 16th century because of the area's deep-water harbor. After the British gained possession of India, the name was anglicized to Bombay.

The Chinese capital did not change its name; rather, the English spellings of Chinese words were changed. The People's Republic of China, established in 1949, adopted the pinyin system for spelling Chinese names and places in Roman letters. Beijing has also been known as Ji, Zhongdu and Dadu.

Middle class definition is broad

What is considered a middle-class income for Americans?

There is no consensus or official government definition of middle class. Last year, the Congressional Research Service issued a report putting middle-class income between $19,000 a year and $91,000 a year, depending on family size. The Census Bureau reported median household income in the United States was $50,233 in 2007; half of all four-person families made more, half made less.

All about Alex McLeod

Is AlexMcLeod (once of TLC's Trading Spaces) the same person who hosted Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That on Television?

Alex McLeod was the original host of Trading Spaces; she went on to work on a number of other shows, including Joe Millionaire and Hollywood 411. She's now heavily involved in Habitat for Humanity. Check her Web site for more information: She was not on You Can't Do That on Television.


Last Friday's Ask the Times listed an incorrect number of African-Americans who won an Academy Award for acting. The correct number is 12.

Q&A: What is the purpose of leap year? 02/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 26, 2009 3:30am]
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