Note: Thanks to reader and commenter Jack for this idea from his comment on my previous post.
The glory of a system based on counting to ten is that we don’t need to figure out multiples of six, seven or anything else.
My previous post, “Spanning three centuries — here? Not exactly,” available here, looked at the idea that a company’s product “spanning three centuries” wasn’t 300 years old. We’d need to reach the 300th anniversary for that to happen.
But here we are again with a year ending in nine. I’m not hearing yet about “ending the second decade of the millennium” — but I expect to, if previous years with nines are any indication.
That’s as wrong as trying to pay someone ten dollars and stopping at nine — or saying “Have I paid you anything?” and, on hearing “No,” saying “Count the zero.”
If I pay someone ten dollars, I pay them dollars one through ten. The same thing, logically, should happen with decades.
The new millennium began in 2001 because a millennium lasts 1,000 years — and there was no “year zero.” I spent much of 1999 almost chanting that the turn of the millennium had “Two Ms, two Ls, two Ns, but not 2000.”
It was fine to talk in 2009 about the hysteria “a decade ago” about the Y2K computer problem and the change from writing years as two digits to writing them as four (99 to 2000, for example). In 2009, that was a decade ago — it happened in 1999.
But when counting the decades in a career, as in the comment on my previous post, 1980 should not count as part of the decade of the 1980s. The first decade was A.D. 1-10, so the second one began in the year 11, the next in 21, and so on. The 1970s, then, lasted from 1971-1980, and the decade of the ’80s began with 1981.
So don’t worry about the decade of the 2010s ending quite yet.
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Filed under: Expressions