Steve Fenton

The Definitive Decadic Reference: Gifting back the new decade

As we entered 2020, you will have no doubt heard people celebrating the new decade. Just as certainly, you will have heard those declaring that this is not the start of a decade, because we have to wait until 2021. In this post, I rebut this tiresome pseudo-intellectual peacocking and gift back to the humble people of the world the decade that is, to the 21st century, the twenties.

Before we discard the irritating argument used by those who want to position themselves as intellectually superior to the majority of their peers, let’s examine it. This problem was started when we looked upon the first year and named it “1”.

When the de-facto calendar was put into use in 1582, the word “decade” referred to any group of term things. You could divide your Facescroll friends into decades, where each decade contained ten friends. You could distribute the contents of your coal scuttle into decades of coal, perhaps intending to observe a daily decade heating budget.

Applied to years, a decade must observe one simple rule; it must a collection of ten years. It would be an abuse to the Greek “deka”, meaning ten, for it to be any other.

So, the argument goes that if we start with year “1”, the first group of term would be:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

This would place year “10” in the first decade, meaning the second decade doesn’t begin until year “11”. If you keep taking sequential decades from this starting point, you find 2020 is the final year of the current decade, not the first year of the next.

That’s the argument, but the argument is idiotic.

To start from year “1” is an entirely arbitrary decision, because we all know it wasn’t the first year. More than one calendar is based on a start date calculated to be when Jesus was announced to Mary, for example our Gregorian calendar and the Ethiopian calendar, but these differ by seven to eight years.

Additionally, any arguments about what do with the errant year “1” can be discarded when asking the real question. For example, when you orate a date as eighteen-twelve, in the year “1900” the question would have been; “how shall we divide up the 100 years starting with ‘nineteen’?”

This question would, as always, be answered by grouping 1900-1909, 1910-1919, 1920-1929, and so on.

They are valid decades because they each contain ten years. They are additionally valid because this meaning of decade is so well accepted that it had made it into the Oxford English Dictionary as “a period of ten years beginning with a year ending in 0”.

This definition of a decade also allows us to refer to them colloquially with terms such as “the sixties”, or even “the swinging sixties”.

Those who attempt to redefine a decade’s start have no grounds to do so as the collectively accepted terminology gives us all a basis for shared understanding. This collective language has more merit that a weaselly self-important “correct” definition.

So, welcome to the twenties! Enjoy this hopeful decade where we hope to improve upon the tensies and feel free to disdainfully shut down those who would confuse the well established convention for reasons of personal vanity.

Written by Steve Fenton on