Since the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2010 I’ve been wondering just how long it will take for people to realize that they should now revert back to the old way of saying the year. Since the year 2000 and through 2009 (and beyond for some), we have been saying the year in “thousands,” but up until that time we said the year in two distinct parts. In 1999, did you say “One Thousand Nine Hundred Ninety Nine”? No, I didn’t think so. And it certainly would have made for a less than catchy chorus in a popular Prince song. So why are you now saying “Two Thousand Thirteen” when you could say “Twenty Thirteen”? You realize it’s one less syllable, right?
This thought crossed my mind again at the stroke of midnight this past January 1st, and I began to wonder again when we would reach critical mass and collectively agree to switch back to the old method. Then I read a New Yorker blog post titled, (“Twenty Something“), and in it Hendrik Hertzberg says:
The awkwardness I’m guessing we’re in the process to get rid of doesn’t crop up every time there’s a turn of the century. At the dawn of the twentieth, for example, nobody had any trouble pronouncing the year. It was “nineteen hundred.” It was definitely not “one thousand nine hundred.” Five years after that, it was “nineteen five” or “nineteen oh five” or “nineteen aught five.” No one said “one thousand nine hundred five” or “one thousand nine hundred and five.”
Hertzberg points out a piece of pop culture, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” that foretold our current method of saying what year it is. But that method was only in wide circulation from 2000 to 2009, and for good reason, as the only way to say 2001 that isn’t awkward is to say “Two Thousand One” or “Two Thousand and One”. But from 2010 forward it’s a mixed bag.
I believe we ultimately resort to the most natural way to say the year, but unfortunately this will not be fully realized until we get to the incredible awkwardness that is hearing someone say “Two Thousand One Hundred One.” – Or how about “Two Thousand One Hundred Twenty One”? So while Hertzberg predicts we might shed this awkward stage in Twenty Thirteen, I’m not so sure we will achieve universal acceptance until we party like it’s Twenty Ninety Nine.
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