I am not one for pedantry or technicalities, really. Okay, dismiss the previous statement, since my following paragraphs will suggest otherwise. So maybe I am. But, little things sometimes bother me more than they should. Here’s the rant: the overwhelming majority of people believe 2010 is the beginning of a new decade. It’s not the beginning, technically speaking. It’s the last year in the old decade, if certain technicalities are taken into account.
I know–what? The bizarre part of this is that the people who believe it’s the beginning, are also right. See, it’s been pointed out that when we refer to the 90s, for example, we think of the decade as running from 1990-1999. We don’t count 2000 as the end of the 1990s. Well, they’re right. This is common sense. It’s a matter of counting 10s, starting at zero. 0-9 is ten and that’s the decade. We’ve always counted zero, as exemplified with children under the age of one.
This is true, except for one example that screwed up our calendar.
A very long time ago, about 2000 years, the makers of the calendar, a.k.a. the Romans, failed to input the number zero as a placeholder or divider between the BCE period and the CE period. So, they went from 1 BCE to 1 CE instead of 1 BCE to 0 and then 1 CE, the standard. It seemed they weren’t aware of zero then, since it was invented by the Arabs, Indians or Maya and not the Romans from whom much of western culture was inherited. Had they done inputted zero, then January 1, 2000 would’ve been the beginning of the decade, all things technical considered. It’s essentially because of the absence of zero why January 1, 2001 is the beginning of the new decade, making 2010 the last year in the decade.
The mistake was caught in the sixteenth century and to compensate for it, the makers of the corrected Gregorian calendar invented ordinal dates. So, we now refer to the 1900s as the 20th century and the 2000s as the 21st, etc. Also, the decade count starts one year later. Instead of counting zero, we start counting at 1. Hence, 20-01 is the start of the new decade and 20-10 is the end.
Of course, tradition is tradition and we can’t simply change the mindset of the millions with invested interest in such trivial things as calendar correctness. I mean, the Y2K scare was exciting, wasn’t it?
Anyhow, people like me are minority. We’ll just shut up and wait ’til next year to usher in the new decade, quietly.