A curious issue emerged as I was writing some grammar notes today.
We generally pronounce years before 2000 in two parts. So 1999 = ‘nineteen ninety-nine’
But when the century turned, we began talking of thousands. So 2008 = ‘two thousand (and) eight.’
We don’t do that when we’re talking about previous centuries. So 1908 is usually ‘nineteen oh eight’ rather than ‘nineteen hundred (and) eight’.
So how are we going to pronounce the next decade?
I thought I’d ask a few folks and emailed around. I discovered that Brits include the ‘and’ in the ‘thousand’ expressions and Americans usually don’t – no surprises there. But in my teeny survey, there was a mix when it came choosing between:
a. Two thousand (and) ten
b. Twenty ten
So currently two systems are in operation. Should we tell students to take their pick? I’m not sure that’s helpful because one’s bound to win. Think of 2001. It’s ‘two thousand and one’. ‘Twenty oh one’ is not an acceptable alternative.
A situation of ‘no change’ would be speakers maintaining the one-number current system. But we have Brits talking about the twenty twelve Olympics and Obama’s 10 year health reforms are discussed in relation to twenty twelve/thirteen/etc. There’s language change in operation here and the movement’s back towards the two-number system.
So happy twenty ten folks, and if you’d like to add your voice…Click Here to take survey and I’ll update the stats later.