By Xeni Jardin at 8:22 pm Thu, Dec 31, 2009
Farewell, aughts! Illustration above by David Silverman (Thanks, David!).
You ought to know that aught is an incorrect term for zero. You’re thinking of nought/naught, which obviously etymologically is correct, ie, “there’s naught but a single other person here who’s bothered to correct you.”
Pardon the linkspam, but I saw this argue-about-the-calendar thing coming already and explained it all thoroughly in a recent post:
TL;DR The calendar does not count years, only labels them. We can arbitrarily group any block of ten years into a decade.
The aughts (2000-’09) are over; the (21st) decade (2001-’10) is not.
It is a paradox.
Oh dear. Two-hundred-first decade, rather.
@ #15 I say the first decade WAS only nine years. Now what? I don’t think it really makes much of a difference considering that time is continuous but we treat it like a discreet quantity. Not to mention that our perspective as beings living on Earth is extremely limited. Just you wait till I get real-estate on Mars, then I’ll start a new calendar there starting at zero, and it will have 669 days, except for one every five years when we will loose a day and have only 668.
Regardless, I think the best approach is to celebrate 2010 as the beginning of the beginning of the decade, that way we celebrate both times!
Ooooh, it’s so exciting when all the zeros line up! But you haven’t gone 100,000 miles till it turns over 100,001. You have to FINISH the 100,000th mile.
“A” decade can be any ten years. But “The” decade really ought to mean the same thing in 2011 A.D. as in 11 A.D.
Hamish, the convention is that the birth of Christ is considered to be the point at the beginning of the year 1 A.D. (Figuratively, of course.) And arguably, if Christ were born within the year 0, the FSM wins, noodly appendages down.
Tynam, you can count 0-9 in an array, but you’re counting 10 labels, and you’re having your computer do it for you. The labels aren’t the values. But hey, if you need change for a ten, drop by later.
Anyway have a great year everyone. If you want an argument, that Monty Python clip is on YouTube. No, it isn’t. Yes, it is…
If I walk 100,000 miles, I start with no miles. After my 1st mile, I have walked 1 mile, after my second mile I have walked 2. After I walk 100,000 I have walked 100,000, not 100,001! Frankly I can’t even reason why people can think this way. And noone cares If the year of jesus birth was called 1 AD, there was certainly a year that existed before it (and many billion before that) so trying to argue that decades must align with the first declared year of a calender that wasn’t even in use at the time is not an exercise in educating the ignorant masses, and more just trying to sound informed about something completely irrelevant.
Hey spaceghost. There are units of measure smaller than miles. As soon as you step it’s rolling the counter. Just like calendar. You can’t live a whole year without counting it. You cannot live an entire year zero, because there are smaller units that make the year.
You step and you are walking your first mile, then your second and so on. Not walking your zeroith mile, then your first. Making up words as I go…
Yes you step and your walking your first mile, but until you pass the mark the mile doesn’t click over to 1 until after a full mile has been reached. 2001 wasn’t the first year of the millennium, it was the 1st year after the millennium (yeah it was the second year of the new millennium). I think the confusion is people imagine 0 as being a quantity instead of a placeholder, but any calender year exists, even the ones with 0’s at the end (and they last a whole year too just like all the others). See 1990 wasn’t part of the 80’s, because there’s no 8 in it (and 1980 has 80 in it which is how you spell the decade that follows it when your describing it – convenient no?)
“Making up words as I go…”
Nope, just spelling them wrong.
The Gregorian calendar was established by papal decree in 1582. Therefore, decades start in years ending in “2”, and centuries in years ending in “82”.
I cannot believe any of you pedants, saying there was no year 0, actually think there was a year 1.
So none of it makes a difference. People are celebrating the number change, not the specific interval since an arbitrary start point.
On any issue where one side has the arithmetic and the other side has the namecalling, you know where to find me.
Fuck you all. I’m going to have a beer.
“I was born in the 1960s.”
“Oh, what year were you born?”
every 10 years, everyone gets to troll every board about when the decade ends. it’s a tradition dating back to the romans. like, haloween, or the super bowl. but no candy.
Uhh, the Christian calendar did not start with 1, it started with 1582, 428 years ago.
Lies, all lies, even the calendar.
Geez, this comment thread has turned into one big hangover.
Please, can we call them the double-ohs? I’m a big fan of the aughts, but the double-ohs only happen once a millenia, and the aughts happen every century ;P
And good riddance!
Thanks for another year of wonderful things!
Two hours to go and Happy New Year too!
Decade? What new decade? We still have another year to go before the decade is over.
I’ve pointed this out to so many people that I’ve given up. They keep saying it on television too! There’s no hope!
and a happy new decade to you too xeni! let’s hope it’s better than that piece-of-crap decade we leave behind…
I hate to be that guy but the new decade starts next year.
Mmh, “zeroth” is a rather useful word.
For the non-programmers, a short introduction to one of the uses:
Imagine you want to store a list of numbers. You find a free spot in memory, and then stash all the numbers after each other, using the same amount of space for each number.
When you want to use those numbers again later, all you really need to know is where the first number is, and how large each number is. (How many numbers there are is also nice, unless you can dedicate a value to mean “stop here”).
Say you have the address of the first number in X, and that each number is 1 long. Then X+1 is the location of the second number, X+2 the third number, and so on. This is a bit inconvenient to type out, so it has a shortform. First, you have to declare what type and length of numbers are in X, and then you can use X to mean “the number in X + 3*(size of each number in X)”.
Importantly, that means that X is the first element of a ten-element list, and X the tenth – but you’ll often hear those two called the zeroth and ninth.
Not all languages went for this, though, since there’s not much overhead in translating X to mean the first element in the list. (Some went even further and let you chose whatever starting value you want.)
Ok, since nobody’s started the discussion yet, here goes: should 2010 be the first year of the decade, or the last? Those arguing for it being the last, will surely say that AD 1 was the start of the first decade AD (since there was no year 0), so AD 10 would be the end of it. Repeat the cycle 200 or so times, and 2010 would be the last year of the decade.
Those arguing for it being the first year of the decade, will probably just point out that the preceding argument is dumb, and it’s easier to think of the decade changing when the tens digit changes. And do you want to say that 1990 wasn’t a part of the decade of the 90’s? Or that 2000 was in the 90’s?
Let the discussion commence (unless you’re actually, I don’t know, having a good time tonight)!
2010 should be the last year of the decade, because it was written MMX and the Roman numbering system didn’t include zero which was introduced from India by the Arabic scholars of years gone by who saved the records of classical Greece and Rome through the Dark Ages. Isn’t that how it goes?
Easy to answer that – count to 10 – do you strt with 0 or do you start with 1?
There’s really nothing to discuss. It’s no more a matter of opinion than gravity. The next decade doesn’t start until 1/1/2011.
There’s really nothing to discuss. It’s no more a matter of opinion than gravity. The new decade started on 1/1/2010.
See, I can do that too.
Happy Nerd Year!
Happy New Decade!
(Die Toten Hosen singing Auld Lang Syne)
It’s not a new decade until 2010 is over. Do you start counting at zero? No. You start counting at one.
Anon @10: I do, in fact, routinely start counting at zero. (Many mathematicians and programmers do, as many things are easier to handle that way.)
Zero is probably the first number in the cardinals you use too; you just don’t often bother to declare it. When you count you’re normally counting things; the start at “zero things” can safely be implied rather than stated.
Not new until next year Xeni (unless the first decade AD was only 9 years long).
Re: decade pedantry
That depends entirely on what you think people are acknowledging with the new year on their calender; the time since the supposed birth-date of a supposed person two thousand years ago, OR the new (arbitrary) end-number being a zero and a brand new tens-number. I suspect it’s mostly the latter.
Case in point, the year 2000. While the pedants noted the “real” millenium being 01/01/2001, most people were actually celebrating the three end-zeros and living-in-the-future (of course 2001 being what it is, we got to celebrate living in the future that year too.. just like 2010 wooo!).
Happy New Year!
It’s not pedantry correct a statement that is wrong.
It’s pedantry to point out that you’ve twice posted with the word calendar misspelled.
Great, another year that isn’t going to be anything like the movie.
Don’t lose heart. The year 2012 may still be like the movie.
Ugh. This pedantic argument AGAIN? 1990-1999= “The Nineties”, 2000-2009=”The Aughties”, etc…
The “decade”, as understood by most of us, is incremented when the value in the tens positions changes.
So, yes, happy new decade.
Just because “most of us” understand something a certain way doesn’t make it correct.
“Most of us” understood that we (the US) invaded Iraq looking for WMDs, but that just wasn’t the case, now was it?
While it seems easier to think of 0-9 as being a decade, if you do then you’re saying that the first “decade” only lasted 9 years.
Hey, it was the first decade, cut it some slack for being inexperienced and cutting out early. :P
#15- Count that again.
Thanks for a great blog and for keepin’ on keepin’ us thinking. Have a swell New Year!
True enough so far. But what’s happening is that people are inappropriately applying the logic used for centuries to decades, but it doesn’t work. The 20th century was 1901 – 2000, but the 1900s were 1900 to 1999.
The problem is that nobody refers to “the first decade of the twenty-first century” or “the two-hundred first decade.” If that was what people spoke of, then sure — 2010 would be the last year of “the decade” and 2011 would be the first year of “the decade.”
But in the real world, what people actually refer to are the digits, just like “the 1900s”. And by the digits, 2009 was the last year of the decade and 2010 is the start.
Not to spoil the pedantic stupidity, but a decade is any arbitrary period of 10 years. Every year is the end of a decade.
Glad I don’t own a cable TV connection or whatever. The temptation to watch would’ve been great, but a recap of the last decade on all the stations I imagine might be a bit… depressing.
I’m rooting for the teens to kick some ass… shouldn’t be too hard to do comparatively!!
“The 90’s”…1990-1999…sure. The Aughties: 2000-2009. Ok, that *does* make sense. But “the decade” = 1991 to 2000, 2001 to 2010, etc. No less than the Straight Dope has chimed in on this.
Happy New Year!
A funny man said 10 years ago, “Some people argue that the millennium starts at 2001, these are the same sort of people who don’t get invited to the millennium parties on 12/31/1999.”
I can remember what the world was like 10 years ago, I feel old. In 1995 I saw “2010” as the distant future, but wow, now it’s here.
I wonder what 2020 will be like. From a tech point of view, 10 years ago practically all cameras used film, mobile phones had monochrome text displays, “google” was not yet a verb, there was no Facebook, DVD’s were exotic, etc, etc. (and the other day someone wrote the high end Mac laptop was the 400 MHz TiBook with 40 GB HDD — actually this was released on Jan 2001).
Let’s all just stop arguing and agree celebrate a new decade twice every 10 years.
Will someone PLEASE explain the illustration? I really don’t get it.
what’s the problem??
if the very first “numbered year” is 1, then the year before it must be 0, the one before that must be -1, etc….
0..9 is a decade
-10..-1 is a decade
i’d bet my eyes that 2 year’s worth of shit happened between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., but during 1 B.C. nobody called it that since there was obviously no “C”… it was some other (positive) number depending on whatever calendar system you used.
Sure he was, since “C” was born around 7BC
1. There is no Year Zero.
2. By that argument, first there was the zeroeth century … So this is the end of the zeroeth decade and the beginning of the first decade of the twentieth century. You can’t hav it both ways: if you want to live in the twenty-first century, you have to count it as starting in 2001, not 2000.
Does that mean my car won’t hit 100,000 miles ’til next mile?
Happy New Year. nerds.
The argument here is that while your car started at 0, the years started at 1. (You have driven 1000 miles when the number comes up, but there hasn’t been 1000 years AD until year 1000 ends.)
I don’t see how “decades end after xx10″ follows from that, though. A decade is a self-contained unit, and even if splitting the years into decades of 00->09 definition means there has been one nonconformant decade (nonade? Or do we include 1BC?) at the start that’s not an especially large problem.
Of course, this is mostly a linguistic thing. Norwegian uses the arguably simpler form “the eighteen hundreds” consequently for the years 1800-1899, while “the 19th century” mainly crops up in translations from English. Inspired by that, the debate over when the next millenium started was quite lowkey here, since it seemed sensible to consider the first year of the new century as also being the first year of the new millenium.
Oh, and we haven’t come up with a good name for the last decade here either.
“..while your car started at 0, the years started at 1.”
No, they didn’t. That may be the sticking point here. It’s all made up, there is no start point, we haven’t missed a single thing by calling xxx0 the start of the decade.
“decade |ËˆdÉ›keÉªd| |dÉªËˆkeÉªd| noun
1 a period of ten years : he taught at the university for nearly a decade.
â€¢ a period of ten years beginning with a year ending in 0 : the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.”
“Some writers like to point out that since the common calendar starts from the year 1, its first full decade contained the years from 1 to 10, the second decade from 11 to 20, and so on. 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.”
“2. spec. a. Short for â€˜decade of yearsâ€™; a period of ten years.” – with no further specifications.
“Noun 1. decade – a period of 10 years; 1900s – the decade from 1900 to 1909”
Encyclopedia Britannia, blog:
“No discussion of such matters would be complete without a spirited, if utterly pointless, argument about when the decade actually begins and ends. We went through this ad nauseam ten years ago, when the numbers were bigger â€“ it was the millennium, after all â€“ but the stakes were exactly as trivial. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the year 2000 was the last of the second millennium, and so our Uh-ohs couldnâ€™t begin until 2001. But the non-mathematicians, which is nearly all of us, saw that leading â€œ1â€ change to â€œ2â€ and considered that to be the Big Deal. Moreover, â€œ2000â€ indubitably contains the diagnostic double-aught, plus one to spare. So for most of us, the Uh-ohs are the years 2000-2009.”
Right, let me rephrase that:
The timeline we currently use goes 2BC -> 1BC -> 1AD -> 2AD. That means that we are applying a series of names to all previous years – and in that naming system, year 1AD was the first year AD, and it was not preceded by a year 0.
Now, I don’t actually like that – indeed, I find it remarkably silly. I agree that it’s unlikely that C was B in year one, but just for convenience I’ll pretend he was. In that case, defining the year he was born as year 0 would have placed his 1st birthday in year 1AD, and 1BC would have been one year before he was born – and we would have had an nice string of decades, centuries and millenia all starting with an x0-year.
I personally protest the silliness of not doing that by insisting that the obvious definition of any 10^N group of years starts on M*10^N (where M and N are integers, N>=2) – in other words, a decade starts in x0, a century in x00, and so on. Obviously, that means that any such group of years that includes 1AD will be a bit nonstandard at one end (do you include 1BC, or just live with it being one year short?), but I find that an acceptable price to pay.
Which means I agree with the definitions you quoted, but also agree that it conflicts with the annoying year numbering scheme we’re working with.
I think the illustration is supposed to mean that 2009 ripped us all off in one big noticeable chunk, and 2010 is going get rich stealing something much smaller but many many times.
Kinda the way this thread has stolen so much of the attention that could have gone to a can pecking bird or glowey rocks.
The pedantic definition is only useful for pedantry (no professional uses named decades to describe anything outside the last century, more or less). When the general population refers to a decade, it’s to the interval beginning X0 and ending X9 (one would only call 1991-2000 the ’90s if they intended to be misunderstood). Bringing in this year-one nonsense is an attempt to reconcile two disparate systems of measurement (that Straight Dope article disregards this without argument for some reason; that John Cork knows whats up). Regardless, a decade can be any given ten-year interval. Try to enjoy this next one, maybe?
this is the last year of the fist decade.
You are correct in saying that it is all made up. But so is everything, even the words that we are using to describe this. We agree on a certain system so that we all know what the other person is talking about. You can make up your own language if you like, or insist that the word “cheese” refers to a large predatory beast. But if you run screaming when someone offers you an hors d’oeuvre, don’t get huffy when everyone laughs at you. The calendar system is made up, true. But it is also accepted fact that calendar decades are numbered from 1 to 10.
Your series of quotes (with only the parts that agreed with your premise included or bolded) does not support your assertion. All it supports is that your opinion is the one most commonly held. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica blog entry you quote states that your opinion is the one held by “non-mathematicians.” That may be the majority of people, and that may lend you a feeling of strength in your opinion, but it doesn’t make it any more correct, any more than a majority of people saying “nuke-yoo-lar” would change the true pronunciation of the word “nuclear.”
Scream “pedant” all you like. It won’t make you any more correct. There will be a lot of other people screaming along with you, though, so that should make you feel better. Pardon me, though, as I snicker at the man who is pulling quotes from Internet sources in a desperate attempt to support his claims that other people are being too pedantic. *snicker*
New decade now.
If you want, new decade next year too.
The calendar is an artificial construct. There was no year 0. So what. The calendar we use today wasn’t used until 1582
It’s made up folks. Made up by a pope and his cronies to make calculations easier and to cement jeesy creezy in history. That’s all. The rules regarding it depend on what WE think.
The first decade didn’t start at year one. The pope may have SAID it started then. That does not make it so.
If indeed “The calendar is an artificial construct”, then you have to be at least a little impressed with getting the season changes and lunar phases to play along with it…
A decade is really nothing more than a period of ten years. 1995-2004 is a decade. People designate names to certain decades (e.g. ’90s, ’80s etc.) as a way to quickly identify a time period or an event that occurred during that time period (e.g. The Great Depression of the ’30s).
xxx0-xxx9 makes a much more intuitive choice to designate these names to than xxx1-xxy0. Claiming that 1990 is not part of the ’90s, as the “no year zero” argument implies, is confusing and counter-intuative.
HAPPY NEW WHATEVER!!!
Now, go to bed, all of you… and yeah, that’s good for you too Miss Troll on a Unicorn. You had your fun, didn’t you? LOL
Myself, I’m going to ride on my bike in the deserted streets of my city. Great sensation.
astronomers have pointed out the difficulty with relying on the ‘AD 1′ problem – what comes before AD 1 on the Grigorian calendar? 1 BC.
If we accept that AD 1 = one year after the birth of our lord (anno domini) and 1 BC = one year before Christ’s birth … then there’s gotta be a zero point somewhere between them. Jan 1-Dec 31 of that ‘year zero’ have to count for something, yes? So decades should begin at this zero point, as the moment Jan 1, xx10 happens, 10 years have passed and a new decade begins.
Pshaw. There’s’s ALWAYS a decade ending somewhere. This is just the one that a lot of people get worked up about.
As if time itself gives a rat’s ass how we define it. Move along, folks, nuthin’ to see here…
I just wanted to remind everyone that a DECADE is simply “the span of 10 years”… so, a new decade starts every year.
The “decade of 1960″ would be from 1960 to 1969; the “decade of 1985″ would be from 1985 to 1994, and so on.
So, this argument is very futile…
Happy new year, BB readers, bloggers, admins, etc. :)
Scream “pedant” all you like.
New decade. Not a new decade. Great. Whatever. Who cares?
What I want to know is.. What the hell is that illustration supposed to represent?
2000 – 2009, the pillage and loot years.
Those of us who have been designating decades with sequence numbers (e.g. the 199th decade, the 200th decade…), like centuries are sometimes designated, can wait till next year to toast the start of the 202nd decade.
Those of us who have been designating decades with tens digits (the 60s, the 90s, etc.), can toast a new decade today with no pedantic reservations necessary.
Happy teens, all!
Those commenters who call the millennium-in-2001 argument pedantic should answer the riddle “What is the Roman numeral for zero?”
Another fun activity is to look at newspapers from January 1, 1900 and January 1, 1901. Back then, editors, and the educated public, had no doubt about when the 19th century changed to the 20th.
What’s happened since is that knowledge of historical numbering systems has been lost by people who are otherwise pretty savvy. I also suspect that the millennium-in-2000 meme got a big boost from marketing types. In the fall of 1999, it was impossible to escape all the “name the best X of the millennium” contests unless a person never turned on the TV or read the newspaper.
Regardless, 2010, whatever decade it belongs to, can only improve on 2009. Happy new year!
“Abortions for everybody!”
“Abortions for nobody!”
“Abortions for some, tiny flags for others!”
It’s not a new decade because the Christian calender starts with AD 1, not zero. But it’s certainly a new year, and here’s hoping it’s a good one for the BoingBoing family!
I love people that comment without reading the previous comments. It’s great reading the same thing over and over!
Happy new decade, one and all!
Can someone please explain the illustration? I don’t get it.
Never mind if the new decade has started yet, what are we going to call it? Can’t call it “The Teenies” till we get to 2013… “The Oneies”?
Decades do not need nicknames. What did they call the first two decades of the 20th century?
By the way, where did “aughts” come from? I thought they were called the “Noughties”?
Who cares whether the decade started today or not. Happy New Year anyway.
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