Why is 1900-1999 referred to as the “20th century”? Logically, the century should reflect the first two digits of the years it denotes…right?

I’ve got some really cool authentic coins from the Roman Empire…they’re dated 40 B.C. Anyone want to make an offer? :wink:

Try it this way. Your first year of life was from birth until your first birthday. Your second year was from the time you turned one until the time you turn two. (Yes, I know I’m being sloppy about the exact end points.)

Similarly the first century was from year 0 through year 99, the second century from year 100 through year 199, and…

Hey, wait a minute! Weren’t you paying any attention at all during the whole millenium thing?

Because the first century was 1-100 AD. The second century was 100-200 AD, and so on.

Quick answer: 1AD to 100AD = 1st Century so 101AD to 200AD=2nd Century…and 1901-2000=20th Century.

This also was the reason for the rather acrimonious debate about when the millenium began.

Except there was no year 0, the numbering system having been imposed several hundred years afterward. Which is why there was a millenium debate thing in the first place…



Gunslinger wasn’t paying attention either.

2nd Century was 101-200.

That, and other reasons, all of which should put this thread in GD immediately, or close it since the original question has been answered–I think…

Because the system was imposed several hundred years later, I think we should have created a year 0. If you’ve got years with negative numbers*, having a year numbered “zero” doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

*We don’t call them that, but that’s basically what they are. 500 BCE (or whatever the terminology o’ the week is) is effectively calling it “-500” - except for that pesky problem of jumping from -1 straight to 1.

I’m serious.

*Il Trecento — the 1300s
*Il Quattrocento * — the 1400s
*Il Cinquecento * — the 1500s
*Il Seicento * — the 1600s
*Il Settecento * — the 1700s
*L’Ottocento * — the 1800s
*Il Novecento * — the 1900s

Don’t know what the Italians call the twenty-first century.

It’s not as illogical as some people seem to imply. It’s still being done all the time. For example, the sequel to the excellent book What to Expect When You’re Expecting is called What to Expect the First Year. They have a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect your baby to being doing at that time. When your child is less than one month old, that’s called “the first month.” My eight-month-old son is now in his ninth month.

He’s zero years old, so he’s in his first year. My four-year-old is in his fifth year. I’m still 39, so I’m in my 40th year. In a few weeks I’ll start my 41st year.

The years are like this. The 2001st year begins when it’s been 2000 years since the start. It makes perfect sense, but you have to keep in mind what the terms really mean. You can handle it.

No, it’s not much of a stretch at all. But it is incorrect.

AD (I’m sorry if anybody doesn’t like it, that’s what it was named) is Anno Domini: Year of our Lord. So the year AD 1 (the year that it was previously thought that Jesus was born) is called the First Year of our Lord. The year before AD 1? The first year Before Christ. 1 BC.

There is no room for a year 0. The same is done with Kings’ reigns. There is the First Year of King Joe_Cool, and the year previous was either the XXth year of King Before Me, or else the First Year Before King Joe_Cool.

Get it?

I understand, and I should have been more clear in my first post in just what I was arguing against.

You’re quite right. Under the currently-used system of year-numbering, neither 0 AD nor 0 BC have any meaning. The concept of the “Zero-th Year of King Joe_Cool” is nonsensical, as is the idea of the “Zero-th Year Before King Joe_Cool.” I’m with you on that.

I feel that this whole method of keeping track of years has a pretty obvious flaw - that being the jump directly from “1st Year Before” to “1st Year Of”. We do keep track of them that way, but I think it’s a pretty silly system. It’s also not the only possibility.

I think it would make more sense to simply assign some year (the choice is arbitrary) to be Year Zero and go in both directions from there. If one wanted, we could even refer to them as BYZ (Before Year Zero) and AYZ (After Year Zero), or something similar. The difference there is that the event you’re baselining off of is an entire year, rather than a instant in time. The only advantage this system would have (that I see) would be making arithmetic across the reference point work out correctly, as it does not under our present system.

If we set what is currently called 1 BC to be Year Zero, then all AD years would have the same number that they currently have (2001 AD = 2001 AYZ). Earlier years, though, would have their numbers changed by one: 2 BC would be renamed 1 BYZ, and so on.

You’re quite right that there’s considerable historical precedent for the adoption of the BC/AD system that we currently have, so it’s not like I can blame the Powers That Were for anything. And, it’s not like the problem is all that serious - mostly because the jump from BC to AD is so far in the past that it doesn’t really affect much. The fact that someone born in 1 BC turns two not in the year 1 AD but rather in 2 AD just isn’t an issue for most of us.

Is it a Big Deal? No, clearly not. It’s just something for me to rant about from time to time. :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t ask directions from youse guys.

Tourist in Washington DC, “Where’s the White House?”

Doper, “Last house on the 15 hundredth block of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

You had the seventies, the eighties, the ninties…

Is there any consensus as to what the current decade is called?

I remember on a talk-radio show awhile ago about this topic,
with the names:
The Aughts, Uh-ohs, Zips, and other names along those lines.

Your comments?


Didn’t mean to hijack this thread. I hit post reply instead of new thread.


The third millenium and the twentieth first century both began on January 1, 2000. Know why? Because people think they did. Centuries and millenia are artificial creations with no natural definition; so they conform to whatever the popular expectation of them is. If this definition leads to the conclusion that the first century only lasted ninety nine years, so be it. It’s senseless to try to redefine the current century to protect one that’s long gone.

It’s valid to say that they started on 1/1/00, but that is not “why.” That’s a non-reason.

That’s my point, RM, majority opinion is the reason why. To give a similar example, there’s no intrinsic reason why Thursday is between Wednesday and Friday and not Monday and Tuesday. It’s there because that’s where everyone thinks it is. And if next week, the overwhelming majority of people decided Thursday did belong between Monday and Tuesday, that’s where it would be. And no one could argue that the majority is wrong and Thursday has to be between Wednesday and Friday. “Facts” like this have no rational basis; they’re reached by consensus and whatever conclusion the consensus reaches is, by definition, the correct one.

isn’t that like saying the eighteenhundreds, the nineteenhundreds etc?