Scott Hardie | December 27, 2019
To you, when does the next decade begin: January 1 2020, or January 1 2021? And why do you prefer to count it that way?

NPR has a piece about this today.

Erik Bates | December 27, 2019
Well I hadn't thought of it before, and now you're giving me an existential crisis.

Erik Bates | December 27, 2019
Ok, now I've read the article...

I'm Team Zero.

However, I do think there's a technical decade and a cultural decade. As we reminisce on the past decade and create our lists (such as our movies of the decade list from another discussion here), we are looking at a decade as something we can refer to culturally.

Technically, yes, there was no "year zero" so the first decade of the current era was years 1 - 10, and by keeping that up, each decade should start at x1 and end at (x+1)0.

But that's not how our brains work culturally. I'm a fan of 90's music. The roaring twenties were a decade of prosperity. I can't think of a single time in which (aside from a definitive start/end date dictating it), any period of time is referred to as starting on the 1. 19th century? Started 1800, ended 1899. Technically, you could argue for 1901 to 2000, that doesn't compute... because we refer to "the 1800's" and think of that as the 19th century.

Samir Mehta | December 28, 2019
[hidden by request]

Steve West | December 28, 2019
The primary argument for 1 - 10 seems to be there was no year "0". That seems rather arbitrary to me. I can just as arbitrarily say, "Yes, there was". So 0 - 9 makes more sense to me.

Scott Hardie | December 28, 2019
I may seem to have tipped my hand already, but I'm actually on Team Decades-Are-Arbitrary. A decade is any ten-year period; I could say that the current decade runs from 11:27am on Wednesday, October 12, 2016, until the same time and day in 2026. (The commonly-accepted date boundaries of generations like Boomers and Millennials bothers me for the same reason.)

People can disagree about this stuff because both "sides" are right in different contexts. When I talk about the nineties as a decade, 1990 is a "ninety" and 2000 is not. But if I were to talk about the two hundredth decade, 2000 would be appropriate to include and 1990 would not.

But the thing is, how often do we talk about right now as the "two hundred second" decade? The people who argue that there was no year zero, and thus year ten should be part of the first decade, are really missing the bigger picture that nobody talks or cares about the year ten. Talking about "the eighties" or "the nineties" happens far more often. Shouldn't we count in a way that reflects common everyday speech?

The one person that I definitely couldn't agree with in that NPR article is the guy who's 50 and considers it the final year of his forties. Counting your age in years is even stranger than counting the current time in years, because you're always one year behind: When you're a baby, it's easier for your parents to say that you're "3 weeks old" or "6 months old" because you're not even 1 yet. You became 1 year old on the first day of your second year of life. That guy who's 50 is currently in his fifty-first year of life, so it's too much of a stretch to call him forty-something.


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