Sunday, November 21, 2004


Not "the 2000s," please!

I've got a low four-figure sum thing going here. 1,000 emails, and now a fixation on what to call the decade beginning 2001.

I didn't discuss the most obvious candidate, "the 2000s." As in "the 2000s ushered in the era of the red-state/blue-state divide."

The 2000s is somewhat lame as a nickname for the decade. First, it's not a nickname. You can always say "I can't believe that sunflower and avocado kitchen decorator themes didn't die out in the 1970s," but you wouldn't say, "That 1970s Show" or, heaven forbid, "the roaring 1920s."

Second, it breaks a longstanding linguistic pattern, for no good reason. When we're talking about stuff more than 100 years ago, it's perfectly fine to use the full name of the decade, as in "In the 1890s, the electoral red-state/blue-state map was almost exactly the opposite of what it is now." (That's true, by the way. Check out the 1896 map -- though for some reason they make the Democrats red and the GOP blue.)

But for stuff less than a hundred years ago, it's the " '20s" "'30s," etc. And my guess is that we won't call the next decade the "twenty-tens," but "the teens." And if I live so long, calling the decade after that the "twenty-twenty's" will just make me feel bad about my lifelong near-sightedness and astigmatism. I' confident that they will be "the '20s," with the "roaring '20s" reverting (once it's more than 100 years ago) to "the 1920s." That is, if global warming or rogue-state nuclear proliferation -- neither of which are on our president's radar screen -- don't make it all moot.

So whatever you do, please -- anything but the "2000s."

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