Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
A writer, even a freelancer, is familiar with language struggles. The on-going effort to articulate life as it happens around us can be tough. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have stopped in mid-sentence as my brain sorted madly through its word files for that elusive perfect term.
The turn of this still-new century presented us with a whole new problem: what to call the year.
For the previous 100 years, it was spoken as “nineteen-something” or shortened to the last two digits. For many who were around at the turn of the previous century, the first ten years were referred to as “ought.” “The Wright Brothers flew their plane in ought three,” I heard older folks say. But that antiquated language has long passed from common usage. At first, we heard those years expressed as “two thousand three,” or “two thousand eight.” There were a few attempts to use the previous convention, as “twenty oh eight.” But the problem with those expressions was their length. Each one was a complicated collection of four syllables, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get them to roll smoothly off the tongue. This is a tech age. Everything is short-cutted or just converted to an acronym. Even trying to shortcut them left us with attempts like “twenty seven.” So, was that 2007, or 27? We seemed to settle on simply saying “oh eight,” oh nine” finding that to be the easiest to say.
Having been unable to reach a comfort level, we were all secretly relieved to put that first decade behind us. Now we’re into double digits, which makes things a bit easier. Where we once said, “I’ll buy that book when it comes out in ’97,” now we’ll say, “I’ll download that book to my Kindle in ‘10 or ’11.” The other option of using the older convention is now more sensible. Now we hear pundits talking about the “twenty twelve elections.”
A decade into century number 21, it seems we’re reaching some sort of useable standard. As the years pile up, we’ll become more familiar with properly contextualizing what year it is.
But one thing is for certain. No matter how many championship teams come and go throughout the years, there’ll only ever be one ‘27 Yankees.