Millenium Fever -- is there a cure?

<sigh> Cecil, Cecil, Cecil…
I finally received my copy of “Triumph of the Straight Dope” and was quite thrilled… until I read the Preface. How can it be? How can the bastion of truth and goodness that is the Straight Dope be responsible for perpetuating one of the most pervasive and inane fallacies of our time? I refer of course, to the notion that they have published this book just in time for the new millenium, referring to it as being mere months away. Granted, “months” is a vague term and 20-or-so months does fit the bill, but this is not the inference one gets from the passage.
This is worse than the “Good Times” virus – can it be stopped in time? Can we prevent millions of people from making fools of themselves by ringing in the new millenium (and the new century, for that matter) a year too soon?! Help me out, people! How can we get the world to wake up and understand that the new milleniums and centuries begin with “01”, not “00”?
I realize that either way it’s people getting excited about numbers which is just silly (like making a fuss about your odometer rolling over), but it’s depressing to see so many people being so wrong and so oblivious about it.

It’s really no use, Gawain. People are basically stupid and take what’s fed to them. The only even remotely plausible means to correct this huge error would be to write the major media and get them to understand and spread the word. Actually most of them understand, but they’re making too much money off if it too. This way they can make the money twice for the same thing.

Gawain, Jeff, and all you other “purists”-the calendar has been adjusted several times in the last couple of centuries. I could easily make the claim that the millenium was up back in 1996. The point is, Cecil realizes when the party is gonna start, and he doesn’t plan on staying home that night “just to prove a point”. Just think of it as a glitch in the system, along with leap year and daylight savings time, go with the flow, and grab a glass of champaigne when it’s passed your way.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
Hunter Thompson

Slythe, I agree with the essence of your statement that it really doesn’t matter when the celebration is, and that the calendar is a fluid thing at best. And celebrating the change from 19xx to 20xx makes as much sense as celebrating the Millenium (i.e. next to none), but my point is that the actual “Millenium” – as defined by our current calendar – simply does not start until 2001. It’s the misuse of the term that bothers me.
(You know, this started as a response to Cecil’s preface, but has turned into a rant and I apologize.)
Anyways, I don’t expect Cecil or anybody else to stay at home Dec. 31, but it did distress me greatly to see TSD contributing to the spread of this piece of misinformation. I thought that this is exactly the sort of thing that they’re in business to stamp out. It’s sort of like seeing Richard Simmons and Susan Powter doing a commercial for Hostess Ding-Dongs – only slightly less likely to make you wake up screaming in the middle of the night.

I’ll take the “purist” label as a compliment, whether or not it was meant that way. I just don’t believe in celebrating nothing. It’s kinda like all the Christian holidays which were lifted from other religions, they mean nothing in the Christian context, but people celebrate them anyway as if they did.

I, for one, WILL be staying home on Dec 31…


I’ll take the “purist” label as a compliment, whether or not it was meant that way. I just don’t believe in celebrating nothing. It’s kinda like all the Christian holidays which were lifted from other religions, they mean nothing in the Christian context, but people celebrate them anyway as if they did.

I, for one, WILL be staying home on Dec 31…


Sorry for the double post, folks. the System is acting a little funky (or maybe it’s just me)

Hey guys, I really respect your opinions, but I think this millenium thing is sooooooooo irrelevant!
There’s an article published on “Skeptical Inquirer”, explaining my point more eloquently that I can (I just can’t find it).
The thing is that, whether we like it or not, it’s going to be mayhem this next Dec 31. I’m staying home!

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.

It’s amazing the excuses people come up with for being boring.

It’s amazing the excuses people come up with to get drunk. Boring is a relative term. You may think reading a book is boring, I think going to wrestling match is boring. Who’s right? Neither. The FACT is however, that the next millenium according to our calendar will not begin until Jan 1, 2001. Any other interpretation is simply wrong.

Oh hell, I’m actually looking forward to the mayhem in a perverse sort of way. I realized a long time ago that the real horror stories aren’t going to come from malfunctioning computers, but from the people. Sit back and enjoy the show, folks, this one is going to be good.

Yeah, but how meaningful is that? What you’re basically saying here is that this fairly arbitrary point in the earth’s rotation has occurred a number of times which comes out with lots of zeroes in base ten since a time intended to roughly coincide with the birth of a religious leader in whom neither i nor most of the rest of the world have any personal faith. Don’t you think it’s a bit late to bring accuracy into it? Me, i’m gonna party.


…never seen by waking eyes…

The issue isn’t how meaningful it is that the calendar’s odometer is rolling over, or how long ago somebody’s illegitimate offspring was born, or whether it’s a valid excuse to go out and get stupid drunk. The issue is that if you are calling the upcoming new year the beginning of the new millenium, then you are using a different calendar than the rest of us (yes, I realize that’s ethnocentric and I apologize to the Jewish and Chinese and other year-differing cultures – I’m just trying to make a point here).
So party your head off if you want to – although if that’s all you’re after, why not just say “Happy Friday, let’s get blitzed” and beat the rush. Just don’t be saying “Happy New Millenium” when the clock strikes twelve at the end of this year, that’s all I’m saying.

Gawain and Jeff, I must say that I agree with you - there are more of us than you think who know when the millenium will start… however, I was wondering if you heard the very latest in the ongoing sillyness - the Clintons are having a Millenium bash on the Mall in DC. IT is to be a MOB FEST. Wait until this one really grabs the media. I for one will stay home.

You guys crack me up…We all know the next Millenium starts Jan. 01 2001 that just means two straight years of parties. If you are intent on staying home on Dec. 31 1999 good for you and I hope you have a smashing time but don’t get all guffed with 90% of the rest of the populous who are going to be out celebrating watching the “odometer roll over” so to speak. Hell I had a great time when my car odometer rolled over 100,000 and then later on 200,000 ( and subequently 250,000 before it went to the big scrap heap in the sky) but you know what ‘they’ say simple things amuse don’t you?

Because no one else celebrates Friday, which would make me an alcoholic rather than a healthy social person.

Whyever not? There’s a new millenium every moment, and this is the one all the fun people will be going to.

Really, i think the public had been more or less alerted to this tragedy of errors back in 1998, and anyone still blathering at this point is probably either terribly dull or pretentious, though of course i don’t know most of the personally and so couldn’t say for sure.


…never seen by waking eyes…

I agree there is a new Millenium every day. Why is it that we are confining ourselves to measurements from year 1 to 1001 and from 1001 to 2001? Why not from year 5 to 1005 and so on. Doesn’t Millenium just designate 1000 years not a SPECIFIC 1000 years?

Gawain and Jeff? Have either of you read Stephen J. Gould’s take on this? He has taken up this subject in at least three of his most recent books and has approached it from several perspectives. One perspective is that since the first year ended at the end of year 1 (rather than turning 1 year at the end of the non-existent year 0), the whole thing is silly to begin with. The answer he presented that I most enjoyed was supplied by a child he knew: the first century only had 99 years.

(BTW, *I[/] would never resort to calling such fine scholars “purists”; I prefer to use the cognomen “A.R.”)


Stephen J. Gould, in his book Questioning the Millennium (note the two "n"s in “millennium”), has a big ol’ honkin’ essay about this very subject.

His basic premise is that the 1999-2000 crossover marks the new millennium in popular culture, while the 2000-2001 crossover marks the new millennium in “learned” culture. Yes, technically, the first year was Year 1, so the 3rd Millennium shouldn’t start until 2001 if you follow cold, official, scholarly logic. But 1-Jan-2000 in a heck of a lot more obvious as a transitional date, and it just plain looks neater.

Interestingly, he goes on to claim that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the scholars “won” the tug-of-war and most newspapers reported the new century beginning on 1-Jan-1901. … But most likely, pop culture will win the tug-of-war THIS time around, and newspapers will report the 21st century as beginning on 1-Jan-2000. So, in a way, the 20th century will contain only 99 years!

Well, that’s fine then. I respect your respective rights to insist on being wrong if you so choose. I’ll stick to cold, official, scholarly facts – the Straight Dope, if you will. I’d also like to point out that I never said I was staying home that night. I am just making the point that I will no more call year 2000 the new millennium than I will call tomorrow Friday – one day is just like the other, but the calendar we live by dictates a right and a wrong answer. Why specifically the years 1-1000, 1001-2000, etc.? Because that, presumably, is what people mean when they talk about the Millennium: a period of 1000 years passing since the beginning of the current calendar. Otherwise, yes, it is coming up on 10:51 a.m. so Happy Millennium!
I do regret previously misspelling millennium, and thank you for the correction.