Jan 20th, 2006 - 17:08:29
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We are starting the sixth year of the new millennium and we are still pronouncing the year two-thousand-six.
Since the beginning of the millennium, when the tastemakers in the broadcast media began pronouncing it two-thousand-one, the rest of us have followed along. Perhaps that reflects the pronunciation of the title of the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, or perhaps it is just a leftover from the year 2000. But it won’t do for a permanent name.
Charles Osgood uses twenty-oh-six on CBS Sunday Morning feature program. He is the only member of the media I’ve heard using the term consistently.
If we don’t follow Osgood’s pronunciation by 2010, what are we going to do when the chronological odometer turns 2101? Are we going to call it a tongue-twisting wordburger like two-thousand-one hundred and one? Or are we going to say twenty-one-oh-one? History is on the side of the latter.
Lewis and Clark began their epic voyage west in 1804, pronounced eighteen-oh four, and returned in 1806, pronounced eighteen-oh-six.
Oregon became a territory of the United States in 1849 pronounced eighteen forty nine, and a state in 1859, pronounced eighteen-fifty-nine.
Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859, pronounced eighteen-fifty-nine.
We say nineteen-hundred and nineteen-oh-one. The stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression was in 1929, pronounced nineteen-twenty-nine.
I suspect we are going to call 2010, twenty-ten. A decade later we may say it is twenty-twenty if the corporation that makes the windshield washer fluid 20/20 hasn’t trademarked the pronunciation and insists on charging us royalties every time we say it.
I suspect we will call 2101, twenty one-oh-one. You can read old-timers who write, “back in oh-one we walked a mile to school in the rain and snow. You kids are soft nowadays." The old timers means nineteen-oh-one, of course, not twenty-oh-one which we have been calling two-thousand-one.
We’ll be saying -- if we make it -- “back in oh-one we had to ride a bus to school,” complaining how easy kids have it being teleported to school in twenty-one-oh-one. Beam me up, Scotty.
Change of something as fundamental as the expression of time often comes slowly. The Gregorian calendar was developed by Jesuit scholar Christopher Clavius who lived from 1537 to 1612.
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull officially adopting the new calendar. It was resisted because that great scuffle between Protestants and Catholics -- the Reformation -- was already under way. Roman Catholics used it but no one else did. England kept the Julian calendar until 1752!
Colonization and international trade pressured the rest of the world to use the Gregorian calendar but it really didn't become universal until 1912.
I was going to wish you Happy New Year, but that effort at inoffensive good cheer may be jeopardized by the multicultural thought police and the increasingly belligerent Christian Republicans and their partisan pastors. Mere tolerance of others isn’t a sufficient motive for good cheer anymore. They intend to force all of us to choose sides.
It seems the terms B.C. and A.D. are now suspect. I am not talking about cartoonist Johnny Hart's B.C. comic strip. I am talking about B.C. as in "The Romans sacked Carthage in 146 B.C." and A.D. as in "King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D."
B.C. stands for Before Christ. A.D. stands for Anno Domini which is Latin for "year of our Lord." It was the first universal dating system, invented by a little-known scholar and abbot, Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Little) in the early 6th century and popularized by the Venerable Bede, one of the first independent scholars, in the early 8th century. This was the system adapted by Christopher Clavius in his Gregorian calendar.
These traditional terms are insufficiently secular for today’s timorous textbook publishers. Some are struggling with a new dating system. The Romans sacked Carthage in 146 B.C.E., according to these revisionists. King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 C.E. A brief translation from New Speak reveals B.C.E. means Before the Current Era. C.E. means Current Era. When did the Current Era begin? About One A.D.
I had better close with my personal best wishes for a Happy New Year before Bill O’Reilly accuses liberals of conducting a War Against New Years.
Copyright © 2005 by Russell Sadler
Russell Sadler is a journalist and a lecturer at Southern Oregon University. You may write him c/o publisher at westbynorthwest.org. Visit Sadler's Sense column's at West By Northwest.org:
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