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Calendar Silliness

There have been a number of recent letters in the Oregonian discussing the naming of the decade that just finished.  Several have argued that “the aughties” will not actually end until the end of this year.  This is just silly.  I’ve already had one letter published on this topic, but they edited out one of my better arguments.

The key mistake is in thinking that the meaning of a term like “the aughties” is affected in any way by the numbering of years past.  That constraint cannot be justified.  Another mistake is insisting that “the aughties” must always refer to a decade.  “The aughties” refers to any consecutive set of years where the tens digit is zero.  The most recent “aughties” ran from 2000 through 2009.  There was another “aughties” about 2000 years ago, but that one only covered nine years — the years 1 through 9.  Similar, “the zero hundreds” only contained 99 years (from 1 through 99), and “the nineteen hundreds” contained 100 years, from 1900 through 1999.

I think we can all finally agree that the 20th Century started in 1901 and ended in 2000, and that’s true because the 1st Century started in 1 and ran through 100.  The very term “20th Century” has a dependency upon  the centuries that preceded it.  Indeed, if you want to refer to “the 201st decade A.D.”, then I would agree that it does not end until the end of 2010.

The Third Millennium AD began in 2001, but “the two thousands” began in 2000.  There is no reason why the meaning of “the two thousands” has to involve arguments about the absence of a “year 0”.  It’s a word problem, not a number problem.

With all of the critically important problems facing the world today, I suppose it’s nice to be able to argue about something as trivial as semantics for a change.

Posted in Opinion.

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