A public service announcement on decades.

Many of you seem to be confused about this.

The 201st Decade, known as "The Aughts", ended last night.

  • The "Twentieth Century" ran from Jan 1901 through Dec 2000.
  • The "Nineteen Hundreds" ran from Jan 1900 through Dec 1999.
  • The "Nineties" ran from Jan 1990 through Dec 1999.
  • The first "decade" only contained nine years, making it an "enneade".

Some people say that the current decade should be called "The Teens". I think we should only call it that if we pronounce the first few years as "Twenty Teen", "Twenty Oneteen", and "Twenty Twoteen".

Tags: ,

74 Responses:

  1. Man, I wish you luck with this, as I too get tired of the mistakes, but if we couldn't convince the unwashed masses in the late 90's, when they were actually paying attention to the calendar, it isn't likely to happen now.

  2. prock says:

    Your placement of quotes is incorrect. For example, your last sentence should have been typed as

    ... and "Twenty Twoteen."

    • tosderg says:

      Chicago Manual of Style, sections 5.11-5.13. It is a style question, and people argue about it.

      His method is the British style, and is advocated as superior to the American style in the case of terms in linguistic and philosophical works.

      Clearly this blog qualifies as both a linguistic and philosophical work.

      • prock says:

        Don't believe everything you read.

        • And don't trust rules because you were taught they are the right way. Until someone comes up with a good reason for the rule, it can go fuck itself. The only halfway decent argument I have heard is that it looks better/is easier to read your way because the eye only has to go up to the quote from from the period (rather than up from the "n" and down to the period from the quote). But as far as I know, no studies have been conduced on this subject.

          Until such studies are done (and prove that there is significant harm), I follow these simple rules:

          1. never add punctuation to quoted materiel or literal values (e.g. "Twenty Twoteen")
          2. if the punctuation in quote material matches the punctuation that would be used outside of quoted material you may omit the punctuation if no meaning is lost
          3. always use punctuation with literal values, even when it seems redundant, to avoid confusion about whether the punctuation within the quotes is really part of the literal value or not

          • prock says:

            And don't trust rules because you were taught they are the right way. Until someone comes up with a good reason for the rule, it can go fuck itself.

            Tell that to the OP.

            • jkow says:

              Tell that to the OP.

              He was presenting facts, not rules.

            • Lets look at each of JWZ's statements and see if they are logical, self-consistant, and useful:

              • The "Twentieth Century" ran from Jan 1901 through Dec 2000.
              • This seems logical to me. A Century is defined as one hundred years and natural numbers start with one.

              • The "Nineteen Hundreds" ran from Jan 1900 through Dec 1999.
              • This makes sense to me. The Nineteen Hundreds are the years whose century value is 19.

              • The "Nineties" ran from Jan 1990 through Dec 1999.
              • This makes sense to me for a similar reason (but using the decade value instead the century).

              • The first "decade" only contained nine years, making it an "enneade".
              • The first part of this statement is a consequence of the earlier statements. Following the logic of the earlier statements, the first nine years of CE/AD would be called the Aughts or the Aughties. The first ninety-nine years would be called the Aught Hundreds and the first hundred years would be called the First Century. There is no year zero, so the first Aughties decade is not a decade (since it is defined as ten years). JWZ provides a word for this not-a-decade-but-still-like-a-decade concept: enneade. I do not know where he got this word, but for now it serves as a decent placeholder until either it is accepted as the correct word or a better word is found.

              So, the rules are logical and self-consistant, now the question is: are they useful? They seem to map onto how people I have observed behave with respect to naming the years, decades, and centuries and provide a rational basis for the behavior. That seems mighty useful to me.

              Either provide reasoning for your attacks (grammatical or otherwise) or I will simply write you off as an ignorant grammar nazi.

              • prock says:

                Pedantry for the sake of pedantry is the most tedious and pointless meta activity around. And quite often pedants are wrong both in factual terms, and in terms of missing the forest for the trees.

                A cursory glance at your list illustrates the point. The natural numbers start at either zero or one depending on the axioms you are using. There was no first "decade", the Christian calendar came into use during the second and third centuries, and the Gregorian calendar was put into place after the year 500. The idea that we need to follow religious dictate when it comes to discussing the years is fundamentally illogical. If you *are* going to insist on ecclesiastical methods for naming years, use that method and don't make up your own.

                That said, this is all generally content free. But by all means, feel free to waste your time in pedantic land.

      • solarbird says:

        I prefer the American style in most cases, mostly from a visual standpoint, particularly when kerning is invoked, which isn't on the web. In cases where it creates potential confusion, I'll reword around it.

        • shandrew says:

          Mac OS has long performed kerning for fonts with kerning information (which is most of the ones that people use). I presume that Windows does the same. I can see it clearly here anytime someone writes "Twenty" and the w is neatly tucked under the T.

          NextStep, which used Display Postscript for display, most certainly performed kerning.

          The web was created on NextStep. Thus, kerning has been on the web from day one! (Ok, it's not quite on the web itself.)

    • notthebuddha says:

      and "Twenty Twoteen."

      Why would you want to garble the literal and leave the off the statement terminator?

      • Because he or she is a grammar nazi parroting what he or she was taught without thought (or, more kindly, honoring tradition); whereas we, being programmers (or at least people who value logic more than tradition) would rather the language be as logical and useful as possible.

        • thumperward says:

          I'd always thought of "grammar nazi" as a rather odd term, in that in principle strictly enforcing grammar actually leads to a good end result (something that putting people into ovens doesn't, really). But when you apply it to dumbasses who are trying to enforce wrong rules, hey! It actually works.

        • prock says:

          Quite the opposite. I'm fighting fire with fire. Or more to the point, fighting pointless pedantry with pointless pedantry.

  3. ashley_y says:

    • The Twentieth Century ran from Jan 1901 through Dec 2000.
    • The "Nineteen Hundreds" ran from Jan 1900 through Dec 1999.
    • The "Nineties" ran from Jan 1990 through Dec 1999.
    • The "Oughts" or "Noughts" ran from Jan 2000 through Dec 2009.
    • The "Tens" ("Twenty Tens", compare "Nineteen Tens") run from Jan 2010 through Dec 2019.
    • The 201st Decade runs from Jan 2001 through Dec 2010.
    • ashley_y says:

      This is the last year of the Four Hundred and Second Lustrum.

    • andrewducker says:

      Yup - that's pretty much what I go with too.

    • jkow says:

      The 201st Decade runs from Jan 2001 through Dec 2010.

      Why not from Jan 2000 to Dec 2009? Is there a rule to this or is that just your personal counting?

      • blaisepascal says:

        The calendar as we currently use it bases it's count on a (later found to be erroneous) religious calculation of the birth of Jesus Christ. It uses ordinal numbers to identify years. As such, while it was not called such at the time, the calendar began with the "First Year of our Lord" (1 AD, "AD" being an abbreviation for the latin "Anno Domini", or "Year of our Lord"), because ordinal numbers lack a "zeroth" number.

        This year, fully spelled out, is the "Two Thousand Tenth Year of Our Lord". The first decade ("of our Lord", I guess) would have been from 1AD-10AD, the second from 11AD-20AD, etc. The 2nd Millenium, the 20th Century, and the 200th Decade all ended on 31 December 2000AD, with 1 Jan 2001 being the start of the 3rd Millenium, the 21st Century, and the 201st Decade, AD.

        It's the same rule used for counting centuries, just applied to decades.

        • jkow says:

          Thanks for your thorough explanation. I never thought about it like that. I would still think, that the term decade applies to any 10 years, and without stating which 10 years are meant, in natural numbers we usually refer to 0..9 being the first decade and 10..19 being the next decade and so on. So without considering the religious background of our calendar people (I assume) usually think in terms those decades as they're used in natural numbers. So most people would probably say 2000-2010 is the first decade of the current century. Now, of course, you would say, most people are wrong. But does religious background (we don't even know for sure Jesus was born exactly 2008 years + 8 days ago) deliver the right to do that?

          • blaisepascal says:

            "decade" refers to any 10 year period. But "century" refers to any 100 year period, as well. It's perfectly valid to refer to 1776-1976 as the first two centuries of the United States, for instance.

            It's common to refer to the 1900's, meaning the century from 1900-1999, and it's common to refer to the 20th century, meaning the century from 1901-2000. Similarly, it's common to refer to the '90sm meaning the decade from 1990-1999, but it's much less common to refer to the 200th Decade, AD, which would be from 1991-2000.

            I have no problem saying that it's now the first year of the new decade, that decade being the '10s. but it would be incorrect to say that this is the first year of the second decade of the 21st century AD, or that it is the first year of the 201st or 202nd decade AD.

  4. lafinjack says:

    Only the 201st?

  5. rickcampbell says:


    ``The interval from the year 2001 to 2010 could thus be called the 201st decade, using ordinal numbers. However, contrary to practices in referencing centuries, ordinal references to decades are quite uncommon.''

    The 2nd millennium, the 20th century, the 200th decade, and the 2000th year all ended at the same moment. Ten years after that moment, in about 364 days, the 201st decade will end.

    For arbitrary other periods, it is as you suggest, but if you want to use ordinal numbers, wait a year.

    • greyface says:

      You do know that:
      A) Quoting wikipedia as an appeal to authority is worthless
      B) Saying something is a standard for behavior in things that PEOPLE DON'T DO is inherently ridiculous.

      Okay, just checking!

  6. sweh says:

    The first "decade" only contained nine years, making it an "enneade"

    I think you're trolling...

  7. bunny42 says:

    You have to live a whole year from your date of birth before you turn one. Why isn't a decade the same thing? Why wasn't 2000 the first year of the 21st century? It started in 2000, and had to exist for a whole year before it became one year old. So, start counting at zero? Works for computers, I know. Technically, until you live a year, your age is figured in months, so you started at zero. Makes sense to me. 2000 - 2009 should be the first decade of the 21st century, right? Right???

    • jwz says:

      It's all screwed up because 1 AD follows 1 BC instead of 0.

      • lifftchi says:

        Only according to historians. Astronomers, who actually have to deal with processes that extend from BC to now, have a year 0. This is probably the only sensible way to do it, and it's a disgrace that the general population doesn't do the same.

        • ultranurd says:

          You'd think we'd listen to them, given that most of the early calendars were developed for astronomical purposes in the first place...

        • seanb says:

          Fortunately, ISO 8601 standard date formatting follows astronomical convention, instead of this "historical" wackiness of the proleptic "Anno Domini" system.

    • pixel_juice says:

      I think AD should be counted from JC's 1st bday. As you say, he wasn't 1 year old when he was born (AFAIK he wasn't Korean so the East Asian age reckoning doesn't apply), so Year Zero would be his first year of life.

      Though it's not 100% sure if it's his CONCEPTION or BIRTH that starts the AD scale...so there are at least 9 months of slack. Make it 12 months and that could be 0 BC. Or did Jesus gestate at an accelerated rate? So many variables...

  8. gths says:

    Yeah well it's the odometer effect, innit?

    People will call it the Teens because it's easier. Kind of like how people call the USA "America" to the umbrage of all other Americans, be they from the north or south, due to expediency, and any other proposed adjectives like "United Statesians" sound forced and clunky even though they are more accurate. Teens it is.

    • solarbird says:

      To be fair, the USA is the only country in the Americas with "America" in its name.

      • greyface says:

        Similarly, other American countries have "United States" in their name. (At least once they're translated into English *coughcough*)

      • rickcampbell says:

        Many people use the term "US Americans", although in my experience, that's *almost* exclusively limited to people who have lived elsewhere in The Americas beside the USA.

    • notthebuddha says:

      Kind of like how people call the USA "America" to the umbrage of all other Americans, be they from the north or south,

      Can you link to any particular evidence of this blanket umbrage being displayed?

      • gths says:

        Yes I did a poll going door to door from Nunavut to the Tierra del Fuego and they unanimously took umbrage [citation needed]

  9. schwa242 says:

    I'm only referring to 2013 through 2019 as "The Teens". 2010, 2011, and 2012 are "The Tweens", and a prime demographic for The Disney Channel.

  10. tiff_seattle says:

    pretty sure there were some decades before jesus christ (allegedly) lived... so by my calculations this would make it approximately the 1400000000'st decade.

  11. pixel_juice says:

    How do leap years figure in to this? Would the culminated number of them offset the missing "year zero"?

    • freiheit says:

      No, leap years keep the calendar year in line with the solar year. An actual year is something like 365.2425 days long. The net result of leap years is that counting calendar years and solar years gets you the same result, give or take a day (not give or take a year).

  12. lionsphil says:

    El Reg had some fun with the date pedants, and pointed out that it's probably really December 2015 now. I'm sure there's a massive flamewar well underway on Wikipedia's category pages about these matters.

    • jsl32 says:

      but that would mean 2012 had come and gone and that we are all ALREADY DEAD.

      • pete23 says:

        ahhh! but the Mayan "mutated fucking neutrino" apocalypse only occurs in 2012 when mapped to the current incorrect calendar. if you map it to the correct one, then presumably it's still 2 years hence, in 2017.

  13. cdavies says:

    This seems like the same sort of thinking that has us all using "billion" to mean 10^9. By which I mean not thinking at all.

    If the first decade has to be defined to be not actually a decade so your scheme will work, there's probably something wrong with the scheme.

  14. scullin says:

    This is mainly of importance to people whose clocks have decade hands, right?

  15. gadlen says:

    "The aughts" falls flat for me.
    "The naughties" is a bit livelier.