I do not really know where to post such a question, so please bear with me if you think there were a better stackexchange for it.
Endianness refers to how we order elements from multiple scales. As such, ordering from coarser to finer scales is called big-endian ; the opposite is called little-endian.
The Wikipedia article discusses merely about its implications in computer architecture, but its scope is actually much broader and we can find it in everyday life.
Indeed, I identified at least four instances where endianness matters :
- personal identity : should we put first name before or after last name ? Well, obviously English language itself answers the question (in a little-endian way), but many Asian countries beg to differ ;
- dates : should we write day/month/year (little-endian) or year-month-day (big-endian) ?
- addresses : should we write Number Street City Country (little-endian) or Country City Street Number (big-endian) ?
- numbers obviously : we usually agree to write that half a kilometre is 0.5 km (big-endian), but we could have convened to write 5.0 km (little-endian) ; for instance, Arabic speakers do write 0.5 km, but read it from right to left, hence in a little-endian way.
From a psychological point of view, endianness is about choosing between prioritising global or local. Let me explain.
If you're asking someone today's date, you probably actually are just asking what day it is. You are likely very well aware of current year and even month, and as such not interested in them. One might reply "It is the fourth" without any further detail and you would be perfectly fine with this answer. You are interested in the finer scale as it helps you precise locally. This is little-endian logic.
As an opposed example, if you are a bit interested in Roman history, you will probably learn that its Western part fell in 476, but you probably won't even try to memorise the specific month, not to say the specific day. This is big-endian logic, where coarser scale helps you precise globally. Likewise, if you want to chronologically sort old administrative papers (say, paid bills) which span over more than a decade, you will first look for years, then months, and finally days. Maybe you won't even be interested in the day if it isn't necessary for you to sort. Which is why international norm for date time notation (ISO 8601) is big-endian.
Except for numbers, Western countries are mostly little-endian. Few exceptions include United States and Germany, which are sometimes quite weird using what we could call middle-endian (basically meaning there is no logic at all), respectively for dates and addresses.
Also, German would read « 132 » as « ein hundert zwei und dreißig » (litteraly « one hundred two and thirty ») which is middle-endian again, as opposed to English which is big-endian here (reading hundreds, then tens, then units).
However, Chinese people seem to be big-endian for all of these four aforementioned subjects. Which other countries or cultures also are fully big-endian ?
Is there any culture which is fully little-endian ?