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I have a box of chocolates that has a best before date of: "2015 MA 12".

What does "MA" stand for?

May? Or March? Which one?

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    I would advise you to make sure the chocolates are eaten before March, just to be sure. It's Valentine's day tomorrow, so maybe that can offer an opportunity to get the chocolates consumed :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 7:27
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about how a specific manufacturer chooses to abbreviate.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 8:57
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    I'm voting to reopen because an EFL learner doesn't know if this is a common convention in English. Also, it's not about a specific manufacturer, it's actually a common convention.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 12:50
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    Same issue addressed at ELU: "Best Before" says "11 MA 23"; is it May or March?
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 15:46
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    OK, I unchecked it. Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 18:42

1 Answer 1

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A Google search for "MA March or May" returns several results stating that in two-letter abbreviations for best before dates, MR stands for March and MA stands for May.

From the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

The bilingual symbols for the months in the durable life date are as follows [B.01.007(5), FDR]:

JA for JANUARY
FE for FEBRUARY
MR for MARCH
AL for APRIL
MA for MAY
JN for JUNE
JL for JULY
AU for AUGUST
SE for SEPTEMBER
OC for OCTOBER
NO for NOVEMBER
DE for DECEMBER

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  • Good answer. However this indicates that the question is about an industry-based coding system, not a question about the English Language.
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 6:04
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    @user3169 Good point. I have actually already close-voted simply because the answer was so easy to find (it took me under a minute to search for and locate the source I quoted), but I figured I'd save the OP the trouble and answer the question while it's still open.
    – pyobum
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 6:07
  • Is this just a Canadian convention resulting from an attempt to avoid showing favoritism to English or French, or does it have wider currency?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 21:51
  • @BenKovitz I will look into that when I get to my office on Monday and post my findings. I imagine it applies at least to the US as well since I've seen the same format used on US packaging, but I know a credible source is much better than anecdotal evidence.
    – pyobum
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 9:30
  • I'm having trouble tracking down other authoritative sources that gives conventions for two-letter month abbreviations on packaging, but I did find a very similar question (and a similar answer to my own from a grocery store worker) that gives weight to the English/French balancing act that goes on in Canada. Dating formats vary from country to country, and the two-month letter abbreviation seems rare.
    – pyobum
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 4:47

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