Twenty Ten

Numeral Slang Numeral Vernacular Slang Vernacular
2000 ’00 “Two Thousand” “two-thousand”
2001 ’01 “Two Thousand One” “oh-one”
2010 ’10 “Twenty Ten” “twenty-ten”
2013 ’13 “Twenty Thirteen” “thirteen”
2020 ’20 “Twenty Twenty” “twenty-twenty”
2021 ’21 “Twenty-One” “twenty-one”
2030 ’30 “Twenty Thirty” “twenty-thirty”

Here is my stance on the debate, if “debate” is the proper term. I’ve only included the pivotal years: the ones where some type of grammatical shift occurs.

I think perhaps saying the years of 2001-2009 as “Two Thousand One” and so on will break down somewhat the further we get from them, but ultimately will be much more common than saying “Nineteen Hundred One” as it’s simply easier to say, and there is so much cultural significance in the turn of the millennium to weigh down this usage.

My logic for saying “twenty-thirty”, “twenty-twenty”, and so on, instead of just “thirty” or “twenty” is a little fuzzy, and mostly based on my own usage. I don’t notice a clear pattern in other people’s usage, or at least haven’t bothered to notice. I think generally I say “nineteen-ninety” instead of “ninety”, as the latter is a little ambiguous. The same applies to “ten”, “eleven” and “twelve”: all grammatical orphans. “Fifteen” can stand alone as “-teen” provides some kind of context that seems sufficient, as does “thirty-” for “thirty-one”, or “ninety-” for “ninety-six”. Am I alone in thinking it feels better to say “back in ninety-six” than “back in ninety”?

As for decades, I’ll wager the following: “Two-thousands” (2000’s), “Tens” (10s), “Twenties” (20s), etc. We won’t use “Two-Thousands” to refer to the entire century until we’re safely in the 22nd century, much like we don’t say “The Nineteen-Hundreds” but rather “The Twentieth Century” for 1900-1999, but we do say “The Eighteen-Hundreds” for 1800-1899. This is largely because referral to specific decades becomes less common the further you’re removed from them, and we more often refer to the whole of the 1800’s than we do the years 1800-1809 specifically. This is not currently true for the 1900’s, and won’t be until some ambiguous region of time well into this century.

For more, see Wikipedia’s article on english numerals and their usage.


One Reply to “Twenty Ten”

  1. I believe that as time has marched on in the USA, our vernacular has become more lax and more slang driven. American English is derived from British English. Their rules are MUCH more strict and less likely to change. Our english is vulgar and most often flexible and changing. As much as I would love to hear Two-Thousand-Ten, I believe that I will be alone in this idea. Rules, laws and guidelines are a thing of the past.

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