What shall we call the decade that is ending?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Fraggle Rocker, Dec 27, 2009.


What shall we call the decade that's ending?

  1. The Aughts

    3 vote(s)
  2. The Oh's

    8 vote(s)
  3. The Zeros

    5 vote(s)
  4. The Uh-Oh's

    2 vote(s)
  5. The Oooh's

    1 vote(s)
  6. Something else (see my post)

    12 vote(s)
  7. I have no idea!

    6 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    There is considerable concern in the media over the fact that we have never named the current decade. We had the Twenties, the Thirties, the Forties, etc., clear up through the Nineties. But that pattern breaks down because of the way the English language expresses numbers greater than one hundred.

    One thousand nine hundred thirty-four and one thousand nine hundred thirty-five (note that properly spoken there is no "and" in those constructions) both contain the component "thirty-", so we can call the whole decade "the Thirties." But two thousand six and two thousand seven have no such commonality.

    We can look back a hundred years. One thousand nine hundred six and one thousand nine hundred seven had no commonality either. People referred to them as "the Aughts." '06 was pronounced aught-six and '07 was aught-seven.

    Aught is a mis-parsing of "a naught" as "an aught." "Naught" is a perfectly respectable alternative for "nothing," being a contraction of "no whit," with "whit" as an old word meaning simply "thing."

    But the problem with aught is that nobody says it anymore. Nobody calls this year aught-nine, they call it oh-nine.

    So shall we just call this decade "the Oh's"? Sure, why not? No scholars or journalists seem to like the word, but humorists certainly do!

    A suggestion that was made before the decade started was "the Uh-Oh's". In retrospect that probably wouldn't be too bad!

    Two O's together in English are pronounced like a cardinal U: oooo!

    One thing is for sure, somebody will come up with a name that sticks. Nobody is going to keep saying "the Two Thousands" very much longer.

    What do you think?
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
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  3. WillNever Valued Senior Member

    I don't think the mention of it being the 21st century we are talking about will drop until well into the century, so the two-oh's,the twenty-oh's, or the twenty-zeros, I think.

    Also, after this or next year, more people will stop calling their current year "two thousand --" and instead will be calling it "twenty --"

    Twenty fifteen instead of two thousand fifteen.
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  5. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    "Properly spoken" where?
    Nineteen thirty five OR one thousand nine hundred AND thirty five.

    Hence 2000-2009 will be the "Naughties".

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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    In the USA. In the UK and other anglophone countries the "and" is more likely to be inserted. The preponderance of American schools have been teaching it that way for at least a couple of decades, although I don't remember the subject coming up in the 50s and 60s. (Which, by the way, is also wrong: we're supposed to write "the sixties," not "the 60s.")

    The rationale is that in mathematics "and" has a specific set of meanings and it's simply illogical and therefore incorrect to insert in the middle of a numeral. For example, 5.35 can be read "five and thirty-five hundredths."

    If a math problem reads:
    • The animal shelter where Anatoly works has fifty-six dogs. The shelter where his sister Isabel works has one hundred and three cats. How many . . . .
    A careful student would regard that as a trick question. The second sentence implies that Isabel's shelter has one hundred dogs and three cats, since if the animals were all cats it would read "one hundred three cats."

    Nonetheless this rule is not strongly enforced in writing; I often see the "and" in newspapers, and, for example, the book was not retitled One Hundred One Dalmatians for publication in the U.S.

    It is commonly broken in speech. Americans don't like our speech to flow quickly, so we find ways to make our sentences longer. Sticking an "and" in the middle of a sentence where it's not needed is a perfect way to do that.

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    Regardless of the presence or absence of "and," and regardless of which side of the Atlantic or Pacific you're writing from, there are two typographical errors in that line. "Thirty-five" must be joined by a hyphen.
    Cute idea, but it sounds too much like "the Nineties."

    Speaking of which, from what I've been able to find on an internet search, the 1890s were apparently the first decade to be referred to in that way. In full, "the Gay Nineties." (It was a happy decade indeed, because that's when the U.S. economy toggled from scarcity-driven to surplus-driven.) If anyone can find a reference for the naming of an earlier decade (a contemporary reference, not a modern one looking back), please let us know.

    I still can't figure out what we'll call the new decade. Does anyone know if they called the 1910s "the Teens"?
  8. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    So long as it isn't 5.30 read as five and thirty hundredths: we still have old-timers here that say "four and twenty" for twenty-four, etc.

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    Pish, already been promoted over here (starting about '99!).
  9. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    I think these years will be remembered as the runamuck shrub years.
  10. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    As to the OP, I really think that this decade will be the 'ohs', in keeping with the "aughts" of the early twentieth century, yet still differentiable. I mean, what's wrong with saying "yeah, that was a long time ago, maybe sometime in the ohs..." - makes as much sense colloquially as "back in the 'aughts'".

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    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2009
  11. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    I've been using "naughts".
  12. candy Valued Senior Member

    I suspect that history will remember it as the decade of 9-11.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yeah but that's too big a mouthful. Journalists will never use that much of their precious space. Now that the term appears five or ten times in every day's newspaper, the Washington Post seems to have settled on "the Aughts."
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I'm kinda fond of "the noughties" (naughties).
  15. Spud Emperor solanaceous common tater Registered Senior Member

    Aussies have been using the naughties for some time. I think it has already stuck here.
  16. phlogistician Banned Banned

    Yeah, it was named 'The Noughties' from the start.

    This decade has already been named 'The Teenies'.
  17. John99 Banned Banned

    Isnt that 'The Tennies'?
  18. lightgigantic Banned Banned

  19. John99 Banned Banned

  20. phlogistician Banned Banned

    If you have a kid who is 14 years old, are they a 'teenager' or a 'tennager'?

    And do you have a mental health problem?
  21. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    The obvious question

    What do we call the period from 1900-1909? Wouldn't the same term generally apply? Or are we seeking some sort of market-based term? I mean, we're going to call the years 2020-2029 the "twenties" again, aren't we? Or am I presumptuous in that?

    • • •​

    If we need a cute name to satisfy the media, let's go with the "Zeds".
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
  22. superstring01 Moderator

    Huh. That´s not altogether bad.

  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I didn't think it would go over in the USA because the word "naught" has fallen into disuse. But we seem to be happy with "the aughts," which is even more obsolete. You occasionally hear the phrase "all for naught," meaning an endeavor was a dismal failure.

    Sure, but the word "twenties" is still in use for ages, prices, etc. "Aught" and "aughts" are no longer used. Nonetheless it appears to be the winner, perhaps because it's short and printers love to save space.
    That word is unknown to most Americans, more unknown than "aught." We call the letter "zee."

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