Another decade has passed quickly and here we are on the threshold of yet another. For those of us “of a certain age,” it’s kind of mind-blowing that the ’20s are here again, and that the decade of “the Roaring ’20s” is already a century gone by. My grandmother told me stories of her days as a Flapper who danced the Charleston. It’s already 100 years since Prohibition and Bonnie and Clyde and all that. Wonder what the 2020s will one day be famous for?
For my own part, I’m glad to be getting back to a decade that has a name and an identity. Anybody besides me notice that the past two decades have been nameless? I mean, I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s and those decades were known by those names, as were the ’80s and ’90s that followed.
I remember asking people in the late ’90s, as the Y2K scare loomed, what will we call the next decade? The ’00s??? How about the 2000s???? But notice that nobody ever called that decade anything at all. And so the first decade of the 21st century still remains nameless to this day. Nobody really talks about it. Same with the current decade now ending. The ’10s??? The Teens??? Nobody says either of those either.
Think about it… you had the ’70s, the ’80s, and then the ’90s, followed by the… um….. Well then that decade was followed by the… uhhh…. See what I mean? Suppose someday they want to make a nostagia TV program like “That ’70s Show,” only set in 2004. Will they have to call it “That… Um… Show”?
The first decade of the 20th century was sometimes called “the Oughts,” as in, “Why sonny, I bought my first Model T back in ‘Ought-Nine.” But that’s not how people talk today. The current decade is not properly “the Teens” either, due the idiosyncasies of the English language. Ten is not a “teen” and neither are eleven and twelve. So the decade of the Teens would be a third over before you ever got to thirteen.
Some people have their own theories about what these past two decades should be called. My one friend calls the first decade of the 21st century “The Oh-Oughts.” Well, that’s one of him and zero of everybody else. We need a consensus!
If something has a name, it has an identity. When someone says “the ’60s” it conjures up images of hippies and Moon landings. “The ’70s” evokes disco and double-digit inflation, and “the ’80s” connotes MTV and video arcades. These decades were always mentioned by name during their times and were the subject of daily conversation by everyone. But not so since 2000. The nameless decades of the ’00s and the ’10s have no such identities, though certainly enough notable and iconic events have happened in those decades to distinguish them.
An entire generation has come of age growing up in these nameless, faceless, unidentified decades. So these young people might be in for a surprise when the TV media and the average people on the street will all of a sudden be talking about “the ’20s” all day, every day, just like we all did back in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Thus, the sequence of named decades is about to resume again, and will likely continue until the year 2100.
So the ’20s will begin on January 1, 2020. Or will they? There’s always some pedantic killjoy who insists that the new decade does not begin on the 0th year of the decade. We heard a lot from these people 20 years ago, in 1999, when they were insisting that the 21st century won’t begin in 2000, that we have to wait until 2001. See, according to the Christian calendar, Jesus was born in the year 1, not the year 0, so the first decade ended in AD 10, and the next decade began in AD 11.
Continue the same process for another two millennia and you have the decade of the 2010s ending in 2020. The ’20s must then begin in 2021. Well that’s no fun at all! So I respectfully submit that any random 10 year interval can be arbitrarily grouped into a “decade.” So how about we make it simple and all agree that the random 10 year interval that arbitrarily begins in 2020 be collectively regarded as “the ’20s”? Case closed!
Speaking of which, for the last two decades, lots of people (like me) have been counting the years according to “two-thousand-whatever.” For example, the year that is about to end has been called “two-thousand-nineteen.” There have been some people who have called the years by “twenty-whatever,” as in “twenty-nineteen.” But these folks have mostly been the outliers. The reason for this is simple. The first year of the current reckoning was the long-anticipated “Year Two-Thousand.” I mean, what else was anyone going to call it? “Twenty-Oh-Oh?” No one said that. So then it followed that the next year would be “Two-Thousand-One,” just like the movie. That year was then followed by “Two-Thousand-Two” and so on, until the current year about to end.
I predict that’s about to change for everyone, and change for good. Probably no one is going to say “two-thousand-twenty.” I mean, “twenty-twenty” is just plain catchy. It’s the number of perfect eyesight. So after this next new year ends, it will then follow that the next year after that will be “twenty-twenty-one,” followed by “twenty-twenty-two” and so on. This will continue all the way up to “twenty-ninety-nine” which most people today will not be counting. In the meantime, only the cranky old hold-outs from the 20th century will still insist on saying “two-thousand-thirty-two” after another dozen years.
It’s surprising to me that no one else has been talking about any of this yet. It’s an issue that will impact all our lives. But let’s wait another month or so to see how “The ’20s” get going and we’ll all find out together!