Friday, January 01, 2010

You Say "Two Thousand Ten," I Say Tomahto?

So a new year is upon us and for the first time in a long time, I rang in said year outside the DFW area, thanks to an out-of-town gig in Victoria, which--at least the part of it that I saw--is a really nice place. And now that the new year is upon us, the burning question that's on a lot of people's minds is this: How the heck do we pronounce the name of this year, anyway?

This question was posed in a Dallas Morning News article by Eric Aasen in yesterday's paper (which I'm just reading today because of yesterday's travel), which points out the two main possibilities:
In one corner, weighing in at three words, four syllables and 14 letters is ... two-thousand-ten. It continues the tradition over the past decade of using "thousand" to pronounce the year – such as two-thousand-one for 2001 or two-thousand-nine for 2009.

And in the other corner, weighing a svelte two words, three syllables and nine letters is ... twenty-ten. It's a comeback for a classic, the way we used to pronounce the years before Y2K arrived. (Remember, in 1999, it was nineteen-ninety-nine, not one-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-nine.)
That's a good point, and, while I find myself going back and forth, I hope to end up in the twenty-ten camp before year's end. So do these people:
[P]romoters of twenty-ten have created a Web site,, hoping to put a stop to two-thousand-ten. Twenty-ten is easier, faster and shorter to say, the Web site says.

"If we don't fix this now, we'll be stuck saying years the long way for the next 99 years. Don't let that happen!"
The article notes that the "two thousand and..." pronunciation may well have originated with the famous movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which came out in 1968. But it's also possible that the decade of the '00s (and what do we call that--the aughts? The naughts?) was called "two thousand and" whatever because it would have been awkward to call the year 2000 "twenty hundred." But I agree with the twentynot2000 people that it's probably time to go back to the "classic" pronunciation.

Of course, there's always the possibility that this will self-correct in a year, no matter what:
Some suggest that we just give it one more year. They believe this will all be cleared up by 2011 when "twenty-eleven" will simply roll off our tongues.

But will it?

Surely we'll figure this out by 2020. Think about how we already say "twenty-twenty" when we describe the TV news program or ideal vision.
I think that's probably right; I live near the Eastern Extension of the Bush Turnpike, which will be completed by the end of next year, and when people have asked when it's going to be done, I've been saying "twenty-eleven" all along.

Feel free to weigh in on the argument in the comments if you wish. And Happy New Year, no matter how you say it.

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