Saturday, January 2, 2010

Off topic: Welcome to the new decade

[For a while, at least, this "off-topic" post had been one of the more popular ones on the blog.  If you landed here trying to find out when a decade "really" starts, well, here's my answer, but please feel free to look around the rest of the blog --D.H. Dec 2015]

Just as ten years ago you would hear that 2000 wasn't really the start of a new millennium, you'll now hear that 2010 isn't really the start of a new decade. As far as I'm concerned, it is. In particular, it's the first year of the 2010s (or teens, except maybe 2010, 2011 and 2012 should be "tweens").

Yes, I'm well aware there was no year zero in the traditional calendar (though there is in ISO 8601). Fair enough, and if you want to count 1-10 as the first decade, 11-20 as the second, and 2001-2010 as the first decade of the 21st century, have at it. Mind the changeover from Julian to Gregorian, and make sure you use the right calculation for the year 1, but have at it.

Be that as it may, you can start a decade any place you like. You could call 2010 the second year of the decade from 2009-2018. Lumping the years 1990-1999 together as "the 1990s" or "the 90s" and the years 2020-2029 together as "the 2020s" or "the 2os" is perfectly legitimate and natural, so calling 2000-2009 a decade and 2010-2019 another one is just as good for my money, even if coming up with a nice nickname is problematic.

Popular usage heavily favors this notation, and for similar reasons "the 1900s" may well supplant "the 20th century" or "the 20th century plus 1900 and without 2001" if you want to be a stickler about it. I personally prefer that usage and in any case if everybody is making the same "mistake" in usage, it's hard to argue it's a mistake.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

No comments: