Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's "Twenty Ten"

It has been nine years since the turn of the Millennium. The years that have followed have generally been termed "two thousand ____." Of course, this was a shift from the way years were called at the beginning of the 20th Century. Even today, we say "nineteen oh one," or even "nineteen aught one," not "one thousand, nine hundred one." While part of the change in the way we refer to years may well have been because of the new millennium, it seems most of the reason may well rest with a decision regarding the title of a movie made over forty years ago.

It was over forty years ago that Stanley Kubrick made the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Among the many details Kubrick worried over with regards to a very complex film was the pronunciation of its name. He considered whether it should be pronounced "two thousand and one" or "twenty oh one," much as people referred to 1901 as "nineteen oh one." He discussed the pronunciation of the title with technical advisor Frederick Ordway. Together they decided it should be "two thousand and one," on the basis that it sounded better. Both men pondered whether it would have an impact on the language in the 21st Century.

It seems likely that it did have an impact on the English language in the 21st century. Indeed, it would seem that the fact that the "2001" in 2001: A Space Odyssey was pronounced "two thousand and one" did have an impact on the language. After all, there is no other explanation why 2001 should be pronounced "two thousand and one" instead of "twenty oh one," as years  have been in the past.

Of course, now we have reached the year 2010. And while some have insisted on pronouncing the last year in the first decade of the 21st century as "two thousand and ten," it seems to me that it is time we dispense with such and start referring to the year as "twenty ten." My reasoning is simple. First, "twenty ten" is easier to say than "two thousand ten," having one less syllable. Second, at least to my ear, it sounds better. Third, it would provide a link to earlier years. After all, for the whole of the Twentieth Century, years were pronounced "nineteen ____," not "one thousand, nine hundred, and ____." For the sake of continuity, it would simply seem better to say "twenty ten," than "two thousand and ten."

Regardless, it would seem that one very successful film from forty years ago did indeed have an impact on the English language. If the title of 2001: A Space Odyssey had been pronounced differently or had a different title, we might well have pronounced 2001 "twenty oh one."


Tom said...

"Two thousand and ten".

Toby O'B said...

Thanks, Merc! I've been on this seemingly hopeless campaign since 2001 and it's now automatic when I say it. In the beginning I'd have some people argue about it and I'd use the reasoning you did about years past. (Think how long it would take to sing "Seventeen Thousand Seventy Six!", I'd tell them....)

BTW, I think Tom was referring to this, but you have a typo in there where you say the full out name twice rather than "Twenty-Ten" on the secnod go-round.....

Mercurie said...

Thanks, Toby! I had missed that typo!