Friday, January 1, 2010

Twenty Ten: Thus Far and No More

As I despise the very idea of inflating small cavils into scat-throwing controversies, I'll start by agreeing with the twenty-not-2000 people:

Say the year "1810" out loud. Now say the year "1999" out loud. See a pattern? It's been easier, faster, and shorter to say years this way for every decade (except for the one that just ended) instead of saying the number the long way.
And so it should stay: "twenty ten" rather than "two thousand ten," just as we say "nineteen ten," "eighteen ten," "seventeen ten", "sixteen ten," "thirteen ten," "eight ten," and "four ten" for those years. Nothing is settled on the other "ten" years -- 1510, 1410, 1210, 1110, 1010, 910, 710, 610, 510, 310, 210, 110, and 10 -- since nothing worthy of everyday conversation happened in any of those years, but fine. Fair enough: "twenty ten" it is. Let us lay waste to those who differ, crush them, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentation of their women.

And yet ... and yet. The pattern-breaking feature of 2010, and I daresay the source of the scat-throwing controversy, lies in how the locution of "twenty" followed by another number is already prevalent in English, as when we say "twenty one", "twenty two," "twenty three," "twenty five," and "twenty nine." (For all I know, English speakers verbalize 24, 26, 27, and 28 by the same pattern; I have no idea. Not in my social circles!) Since we say those things, and do so commonly, "twenty ten" sounds awkward in a way that "eighteen ten" and "nineteen ten" do not. "Twenty ten" sounds like a child's or southerner's first attempt at counting past 29.

Yes, let's make it "twenty ten," "twenty eleven," "twenty twelve," and, if we choose to speak of the years after which the Mayan Apocalypse erases our species, let us use the same pattern: "twenty thirteen," "twenty nineteen," and so on. But as we do, let us be vigilant against it ever excusing "twenty ten" as an acceptable variant of "thirty." They lost the Civil War and that should count for something.

(via Normblog)


Anonymous said...

happy two oh one oh my overthinking little mofo

Rebecca said...

On the one hand, I have to applaud anybody peevish enough to set up a website about what amounts to a pet annoyance over the way people talk. On the other hand, as admirable as this tetchiness may be, I probably won't spend any time past this comment thinking about how I say the year aloud, since it's not something that irritates me. Now, a campaign to retrain the world on the correct pronunciation of the word "nuclear" is something I could get behind.