March 5, Twenty-oh-eight

March 5, 2008

That’s the date today, right?  What’s that you say?  Most, perhaps all, of you wouldn’t say it like that?  Well, then how would you say it?  Two thousand eight, you say?  That’s weird.  Seems like kind of a mouthful.  Do you always pronounce out the full number representation of years?  How do you say the year 1942? 1706? How about 2345? 

OK, I’ll stop asking you questions and pretending like you’re answering them.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, though.  I hate how we’ve all learned to stick “two thousand” at the beginning of years in this century.  I liked the old standard of breaking them up into two distinct parts.  I’m pretty sure that if you’d have asked any random person 15 years ago to pronounce the year 2045, they’d have said “twenty forty-five”.  Today, I’m not so sure. 

I, of course, understand some of the reasons why this has happened.  First of all, there was the year 2000.  While it seems perfectly normal to say “nineteen hundred”, “twenty hundred” just comes out odd for some reason.  So we called it the year two thousand, and got in the habit.  There are also cultural phenomenons at play.  2001: A Space Odyssey is the only one I can think of, but there might be others. 

So, anyway, as I mentioned, I’ve decided that I hate this, and I’m trying to break myself of the habit, and also, I think, I’ll take up the usage of more commas, and run-on sentences.  And I invite you to join with me.  (Not the commas part, the year pronouncing part.)  If you agree at all with the concept that it’s silly to use the mouthful “two thousand” at the beginning of all year references for a CENTURY when a simple “twenty” will suffice, then make this change with me.  It will be a hard road.  People may give you funny looks.  That’s ok.  It’s fun to be different sometimes.  And if things do swing, you can always remember, “I was one of the first”.  🙂

One more thing, a lot of people seem to think that in some year, (2010 is often sited), this transition will naturally occur.  I have strong doubts about this, though.  People are getting so used to saying “two thousand”, that I’m afraid it’s becoming an unbreakable habit.

One more one more thing.  A few people have tried to bring up the fact that “two thousand eight” and “twenty oh eight” both have four syllables.  While this is true, I contend that, first, syllables aren’t everything.  Twenty oh eight is still quicker and easier to say.  Second, this is just a by product of the need to add “oh” before the eight.  The distinction between twenty and two thousand is what is important here.  Using this method now, even if it has the same number of syllables as before will prepare you for the next decade (and beyond) when it will REALLY make a difference.  😉



  1. What I want to know is when can I start referring to these years we’re currently living through as “ot-eight”, “ot-six”, etc. It’s old timey!

  2. Well, that’s one more thing I thought about mentioning but felt I was already going way to long. You can totally use the “aught” phraseology if that floats your boat. Still fits the pattern. And, yes, it’s “aught”.

  3. I’ve been thinking about conducting a series of ‘life experiments’ (mostly to generate funny things to write about on the old blog) and I think this would be a nice place to start.

    It will be difficult to break the habit, but I think I must join the revolution.

  4. I will join!

  5. Hooray for participation! And yes, it’s definitely a difficult habit to break. I find myself doing a lot of “two thousand eightI MEAN twenty oh eight”.

  6. I can’t believe I just wasted my time in reading that…seriously Keck. Does it really matter? 🙂

  7. Oh, it matters all right. I can think of few things that matter more.

  8. Totally love this subject. I’ve ranted about it on countless websites, such Google “Patrick” and “year pronunciation” :D.

    You’re totally right that it sucks not having a concrete name for this decade. No matter how we try, we could never find a shorthand name that could compare with “nineties” or “eighties”. So my best guess is that in the future, radio DJs will be saying “the best music of the nineties, the two-thousands, and today”, even though “two thousands” could easily mean the entire 21st century (2001-2100), or the entire 3rd millennium even.

    I plan to call the decade the “zeroes”, but I doubt everyone will follow one particular naming.

    As for a pronunciation of the specific years themselves, I think I have an explanation as to why we use “two thousand eight” instead of “twenty oh-eight”.

    There are two reasons:

    1. In 1999, saying “nineteen ninety nine” only took 5 syllables, over the excruciating 9 syllables (or 10 if you use “and”) for “One thousand, nine hundred (and) ninety-nine”.

    But in 2000, not only was “two thousand” a lot more stimulating than a boring “twenty hundred” (which is never, ever used in any context, even math, i.e. “nineteen hundred” is used in math, but “twenty hundred” is not), but “two thousand” was also one less syllable than the “twenty hundred” alternative. Time-saving.

    2. As for the rest of the decade (2001-2009), the reason we stuck with “two thousand” is because of the difficulty in speaking words that have “touching vowels” in the English language. To explain, it is awkward to say “twenty oh-one” because of the “Y” and “O” touching vowels. We avoid this by using “two thousand one”.

    Ack. So I rushed through this, but hopefully you get the point. As you can see, I am fully obsessed with this issue :D.

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