On One Hand

January 1, 2010

How do you pronounce 2010?

Filed under: culture — ononehand @ 2:00 pm
Tags: ,

I was hoping that 2010 would be the first year we start pronouncing years the way they were pronounced every year of my life until 2000. That would be, 2010 is “twenty ten” rather than “two thousand and ten,” the same way that 1999 was “nineteen ninety nine” instead of “one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine.”

But if you follow YouTube and television – which are collectively the the pulse of American culture – it seems that less than a full day into the year we have already gotten on in the habit of pronouncing 2010 the same way we pronounced 2009. Maybe this won’t be year it changes back to the more efficient pronunciation, and it’s possible that a change won’t become popular for a few more years until 2013; we’ve already gotten accustomed to saying “two thousand twelve” when we talk about the film 2012, and those habits stick. According to some, the last decade was full of “the two thousands” in part because of the pronunciation of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey

Speaking of the last decade, the way we refer to 2000-2009 as a historic period might be an even more poignant issue of nomenclature, since everyone, even now, stumbles when describing the decade we just got through. The “two thousands” sounds extremely clumsy, and does not parallel “the sixties” or “the nineteen hundreds” the way “the twenty hundreds” would. (Some have suggested “the naughts” as a good way to say it, reflecting the zeros as well as the fact that we’re leaving the decade on a sour note of lost productivity and political stalemates.)

In most Online polls, a majority of respondents preferred “two thousand and ten” to “twenty ten,” and a few had some irritable or extremely angry comments directed at those who would pronounce 2010 in a new way. They’d be singing a different tune if newscasters switched their pronunciation and everyone had to follow in.

To me, “twenty-ten” sounds better and smoother, but whenever I mention the year the words that come out of my mouth are the same old “two thousand and ten,” running just on instinct. Perhaps the naysayers are not being stubborn or moralistic about a petty issue so much as just being more honest than I am about what they’re likely to do.


  1. Let me first just say I love the new blog!

    I think I’m gonna go with “twenty-ten,” just because it seems more timely and urbane. I forsee a kind of general split where jock types and conservatives keep saying “two thousand and ten,” for example, on sports stations, while other news stations catch on to the twenty ten moinker.

    Or maybe it will be like the metric system, where Europe and the rest of the world adopt it first but Americans beligerantly hang on to the old system because they efficiency argument falls flat on them.

    Here’s to hoping it doesn’t go that way!

    Comment by seanshawn — January 3, 2010 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  2. I still say “two thousand and ten.”

    Comment by nick — January 4, 2010 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

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