It’s Not Over Yet

Happy new Decade!

Wait, not so fast.

I’m not convinced that this is the beginning of a new decade.  I think Jan 1, 2011 will be the start of a new decade, the current one ending on Dec 31, 2010.  My reasoning is manifold:

  • We count from 1 to 10, not from 0 to 9; so the decade should go from 2001 – 2010, not 2000 – 2009.
  • There is no year 0.  Not that Wikipedia is the final authority for all things, but the Gregorian Calendar entry asserts what we all know: “AD 1 immediately follows 1 BC”.
  • Because there is no year 0, the first decade is 1-10; the second decade is 11-20, the third is 21-30, etc.  By extension, the current decade is from 2001-2010, and the next one will be from 2011-2020.
  • We have precedent for numbering periods starting with 1 and ending with a multiple of 10.  The 1st Century was from 1-100; the 2nd Century was from 101-200; and so on.

Interestingly, Wikipedia makes mention of a disconnect between the cultural notion and mathematical/scientific notion of when the 21st Century began.  Even Wikipedia concludes that according to math and logic, the current century runs from 2001-2100, but gives mention of some other “cultural” notion of the current century having begun in 2000, basically declaring this cultural notion incorrect (as I do). Elsewhere Wikipedia affirms that the 21st century runs from 2001-2100; furthermore the 20th Century ran from 1901-2000, and the 19th Century ran from 1801-1900, etc.  If we are going to redefine the 21st century as having begun on January 1, 2000, then we have shorted a previous century by one year, making it not a century at all but rather a “99 year period”.

More authoritative is the U.S. Naval Observatory, stating the same thing, that “the 21st century began with 1 January 2001 and will continue through 31 December 2100.”  Furthermore, it defines millennia as well:

Similarly, the 1st millennium comprised the years AD 1-1000. The 2nd millennium comprises the years AD 1001-2000. The 3rd millennium began with AD 2001 and will continue through AD 3000.

Why all this talk about Centuries if the discussion is supposed to be about Decades?  My fourth bullet point above is supported by these definitions: the precedent is that we group millennia and centuries in groups of 1000 or 100 years, beginning with the year 1:

  • Millennia: 1-1000, 1001-2000, 2001-3000, …
  • Centuries: 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, … ,1801-1900, 1901-2000, 2001-2100, …

By extension, then, a decade should be a grouping of 10 years beginning with the year 1: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, … , 1991-2000, 2001-2010, 2011-2020, …

So, I remain unconvinced by the popular cultural notion of us having just begun a new decade.  In my mind, we’ll have to wait another year.

One Reply to “It’s Not Over Yet”

  1. Technically, you are correct. However, I prefer to think of the 0 year as the start. That way the tens digit of the year is consistent, allowing us to refer to the “twenties,” “fifties”, “nineties”, and so on. I like consistency. Most people, however incorrect, seem to view decades in this manner. Using the “correct” definition creates confusion and isn’t worth the battle for me.

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