It was barely December before I started seeing mentions of year-end lists — best of, worst of, oddest of whatever a column or site reviews.
Those are fine with me. But the lists of best, worst or whatever of the decade are too early.
Decade means ten years — not nine. So I wanted to come up with an easy, yet Serious, way to help you remember that as we head toward the end of 2019.
I thought of a whole separate post about this, but then I saw The Chicago Manual of Style sitting on the end of my couch. I cleared my throat, then looked for its authoritative entry about decades.
It’s there — on pages 556 and 557, about twice as far as I’ve gotten so far. (My bookmark’s at pronouns, page 234.)
But a fat lot of help the manual is about decades.
While the entry mentions that “the first decade of any century cannot be treated in the same way as other decades,” lest it be taken to mean the whole century, the entry then gets sloppy. It specifies: “the first decade of the twenty-first century (or the years 2000-2009)” and “the second decade of the twenty-first century of the 2010s (the years 2010-19).”
Well, now I’m gonna argue like it’s 1999.
Back then, millennium stories were driving me nuts. A millennium is 1,000 years, so how could anyone think that the year 2000 was part of the new millennium? The new millennium began on Jan. 1, 2001. (Some would argue that it began on Sept. 11 of that year, but that’s another story.)
Similarly, a decade is ten years — so how can we say a number ending in nine ends a series of ten? (Imagine I’m going to pay you ten dollars. How would you feel if I said that I was finished paying you at nine?)
But back to The Chicago Manual of Style: “Note that some consider the first decade of, for example, the twenty-first century to consist of the years 2001-10; the second, 2011-20; and so on. Chicago defers to the preference of its authors in this matter.”
That drives this Chicagoan crazy. The preference of this author is for the scientific, sensible decades of one through 10 — and for style manuals that set rules, not defer to preferences.
So what’s next from the manual?
Maybe just a trip back to the library. Stay tuned.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
What next? Get the next installment delivered by subscribing today. Type your e-mail address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam-free, and you can opt out at any time.