A blog experiment by Brad Mills.


Twenty-ten or two thousand ten?

I heard a piece about how to pronounce 2010 on NPR yesterday, and there's been a poll about the same topic which concluded today. Overwhelmingly, the response has been in favor of twenty-ten.

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The year 1971 (a fine year, by the way) was called "nineteen seventy-one," and for that matter, 1909 was called "nineteen oh nine" or sometimes "nineteen and nine." Such has been the pattern for literally hundreds of years, all the way back to at least the 1100s. (And admit it, when you read that out loud in your head, you said "the eleven hundreds," didn't you?)

So for the last decade, we broke from tradition, and a long-term tradition at that. Well, I say enough of this nonsense. Let's save a syllable and a breath. The only year which should have had the phrase "two thousand" anywhere in it was the year 2000. The year after that, 2001, should have been "twenty oh one," or if you feel particularly steampunk, maybe "twenty aught one." I know that's not how it turned out, but there's nothing that says we can't take steps to correct the situation. 2010 — and yes, folks, that's twenty-ten — seems like a reasonable time to start.

While I'm at it... there's no convenient way to refer to the entire decade of years from 2000 to 2009. It's nearly over, and we don't have a name for it. So after midnight on January 1, 2010, what will we call the previous ten years? "Turn of the century" usually refers to the transition from the 1800s to the 1900s, so that's probably not going to work. I've heard "the aughts" here and there, and that's the leader in the NPR poll, but I don't think that will catch on. I can't offer a decent alternative, and nothing I've heard really sounds right at all. A Chicago Tribune article aptly summarizes it as The Radio Station Problem: On the radio in about six years, a DJ will have to play music from the nineties, (something), and today. What will that (something) be?

Each year, shortly after Christmas, a slew of "best of" lists come out summarizing the year's music, movies, TV shows, and everything else you can think of. This year, there will certainly be similar lists for the nameless decade. I'm hoping the decade question gets answered by default of the majority when those lists come out, but something tells me a lot of them will simply be called "best of the decade" lists. Maybe we should just call it "the nameless decade." That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, nor does it make for good radio sound bites, but it is a rather tidy and self-contained truism. And if it catches on... hey, you read it here first!

Back to the year designation debate... at some point, the "two thousand" is going to drop of its own accord. I seriously doubt people are going to refer to 2077 as "two thousand seventy-seven," and by 2100, I'm sure everyone will be saying "twenty-one hundred." Since it's already inevitable, I say the sooner we get to it, the better.

So just say it. Twenty-ten. See? Doesn't it feel comfy?

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