Even if you are disturbed by this assertion by ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons that “Almost Famous” is the movie that defines this decade, there’s an even more disturbing message here…namely, here we are, with just five months left in the decade, and we still don’t have a name for it. We knew this was going to be a problem in 1999, and we still haven’t fixed it. I haven’t heard ANYone make reference to “the aughts” or “the double zeroes” or any other term to describe the years from 2000 to 2009. That hasn’t been an issue yet, since we aren’t yet looking back on it, but trust me, any decade that features the demolition of two of the world’s tallest buildings and the concomitant deaths of thousands of people, the election of the first mixed-race U.S. president, and the greatest global financial collapse in 70 years is going to be looked back upon. And it will need a name.
But I am here to predict that, one hundred years from now, commentators will say the attacks on the World Trade Center took place in “twenty-oh-one” as opposed to “two-thousand-one.” I say we would have said “twenty-oh-one” at the time had it not been for that darned “2001” movie that had the term “two-thousand-one” pounded into our brains for 30 years. And once you’ve gone “two-thousand-one,” well, it’s hard to call the next year “twenty-oh-two.”
My sincere regards to Charles Osgood of CBS, who has used the “twenty-oh” terminology consistently since the start of the decade. It’s not such a big deal now, since “two-thou-sand-nine” and “twen-ty-oh-nine” have the same number of syllables. But starting in “twen-ty-ten,” we’ll save a syllable compared to “two-thou-sand-ten,” and my theory is the structure with the fewest syllables will prevail. I’m curious to see how long it will take for the “twenty-0h” usage to become dominant (I’m sure some people will never change), and then at what point people will refer to “twenty-oh-one” when looking back and forget “two-thousand-one” ever existed.
So join me now, use these next five months to prepare and start saying “twenty-oh-nine.” Of course, purists will argue that “oh” is a letter, “zero” is a number, so “twenty-oh” isn’t proper usage. But I’m not that pure.