We need to take a clue from the math world, I believe. The numbers in the ones column that occur before the tens (or teens) are the ONES! The zero is just a placeholder in the two-digit abbreviation. I don’t say I have oh-three kids!
I’m fine with “oh-two” as a way to refer to the year, but, like it or not, we are in the decade of the ones, which will be followed by the tens (which we call teens), then twenties, thirties, etc.
Just think about what we are really saying. In this decade, we are counting years grouped by ones. Oh-one is simply one 1. Oh-two is just two 1’s, and oh-nine will be nine 1’s. In the decade of the teens, we are counting one group of 10 plus additional groups of 1’s. The year '14 (in any century) simply means four 1’s and one 10. (In the teens, our written and spoken language puts the 1’s first and mentions the 10 last: fourteen just means four-(plus)-ten. Of course, the reason we say eleven and twelve instead of one-teen and two-teen goes way back to base-twelve, but eleven and twelve are part of the teens (or decade of the tens.)
For the rest of the decades, we give the group of 10 first, followed by the 1’s: '27 is two 10’s (or twenty) and seven 1’s.
By the way, the correct way to pronounce this year, whether you choose to write 2002 (common) or 2,002 (uncommon) is two-thousand two–the word “AND” is not there because it denotes a decimal point, such as in $20.15 (“twenty dollars and fifteen cents) or 5-3/4” (five and three-fourths inches, also 5.75"). You will note that in check-writing, the word “and” comes before the cents fraction (12.32 = "twelve and 32/100 dollars," the word "dollars" being represented by the dollar sign  and therefore not needing to be written out).
The reason everyone thinks this decade is the “aughts” is because of the popularity of the “11-11-02” format. Convenient and useful, yes, and I use it all the time too, but do you really think this decade is the “zeros”?! Can’t be! How many zeros would you like? You can add all the zeros you want, but unless time really does stand still, you have to count years with natural numbers. (Someone will say, “What about '00 for the year 2000?” No problem–it’s the year 2000, not zero, regardless of the abbreviaiton.)
I know, I know: the “ones” doesn’t sound the most elegant to my musicial ear, but sometimes my brain just has to win. Sorry.
Um, well, are you aware that “ones” and “single-digits” are the same thing?
If you accept “double-oughts” simply because 2002 has a “00” in it, then the teens must instead be called the “oh-ones” (2014, etc.) and the twenties must really be the “oh-twos” (2028, etc.). Of course, that’s silly, and we all know that they will be called the teens, twenties, thirties, etc.
Since we are naming decades, or groups of tens, why would you choose to apply the hundreds column in combination with the tens for just one decade, then turn around and name the others (properly) by the tens column? It’s inconsistent. Plus, with our standard two-digit abbreviation (class of 04, etc.), calling it double-oughts makes even less sense, since only one “ought” shows up in the abbreviation, while the year '35 is obviously in the thirities. If you wanted to call it the decade of the “zeros,” it would be closer (zeros in the tens column), but it still wouldn’t make sense because we’re not counting zeros–we’re counting ones.
Sorry, you are wrong about this. The “ones” are the numbers 1 through 9 (or, in this case 0-9), and are followed by the tens (or teens), then twenties, etc.
Counting years is counting nonetheless, and counting is math. Let’s break the year down into its real meaning. Use the math you learned in grade school. Ready?
2002: 2 groups of 1000, no groups of 100, no groups of 10, and 2 groups of 1. Easy.
2009 will include 9 groups of 1. Since that’s all we have to count so far, it’s the decade of the “ones.”
2024: 2 groups of 1000, no groups of 100, 2 groups of 10, and 4 groups of 1. Since every year in this decade has 2 groups of 10, it’s called the “twenties.”
I’m not saying I like the sound of “the decade of the ones.” I don’t really care for it that much. But that’s what we have until someone comes up with a more elegant name that’s also accurate.
This is NOT a math question, this is a ‘popular-concensus’ question. I would have thought you math-centric folks would have learned your lesson when you lost the “What year did the real millenium start?” question.
Now don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends like math, and I’m a big fan of flying into outer space and pocket calculators and all the nifty things that math lets us do. However, we need a name for these years so we need to go to the source of much wisdom…
As you can see, when a number is preceded by 2 zeroes you refer to ALL such numbers as “double-naughts”. It works! try it, go on, try it. Say it fast, say it slow. Double-naught. Double-naught. Rhymes with ‘cosmonaut’, ‘astronaut’, ‘forget-me-not’ and whatever else you can think of. It trips lightly off the tongue. It promotes good diction and quaint spelling conventions. It is the YOU century with a clean minty taste. Now with pine-scent.
I understand completely that there is a “popular-consensus” aspect to this question–but we don’t call them the twenties and thirties because of “popluar consensus”–we call them that because it’s mathematically correct. Isn’t the purpose of the Straight Dope to fight ignorance, regardless of “popular consensus”?
Problem is, the decade of “ones” comes around only once every hundred years–who remembers the last one?
I suppose it would help our situation if historians had given a name to the early 20th Century, as they did with the “Roaring Twenties,” etc. Instead, we just say that, for example, “the era of powered flight began in the early 20th Century.” Big help there. I guess they had the same problem we do.
I don’t know why everyone is keen on “double-oughts,” a decade that occurs only every thousand years (1000-1009, 2000-2009; 1900-1909 doesn’t work–and you surely can’t call those the 90’s!), while the twenties, thirties, etc. repeat every hundred years (1820-1829, 1920-1929, 2020-2029). To me, at least, it’s obvious that the first decade of a century is the “ones,” though I don’t really like the sound of that.
I thought the purpose of the Straight Dope is to rebut all those “popular consensi” (?) that are illogical or not based in fact. I’ll stick with the “ones.”
By the way, it’s great to have a place where the teeming millions can express various opinions and present their arguments–I think that’s awesome!
Happyboy, I agree with you about this board, I love it. Good to have a response from someone with less posts than myself for a change too.
Onwards. I do not believe that we call them the “twenties” and “thirties” because it’s mathmatically correct, we call them that because it’s easy to say. To be mathmatically correct we’d call them something like the “decade of the years one thousand nine hundred and twenties”. Strangly, some folks have a hard time accepting that language and math don’t always go together. We use words to convey ideas that are occainsionally vague, whereas math deals in 1+1=2 (not including the higher math that seems to cross the line into philosophy, my hat’s off to those guys). We accuse each other of using a ‘double negative’ as if a 2nd “No” cancelled out the first “No”, which I don’t believe to be the case. Language is fluid (proof? check my spelling!)
I respectfully disagree with you but we’ll both wind up using whatever comes across as most popular with our children’s children. Oh well, sorry Jethro.
happyboy, the problem with calling them the “ones”, meaning that the digit in the ones place is advancing, then we’d have to call eveything from 2010 to 2099 the “tens”. As it is, all of the other decades are named based on how many tens they have: The twenties have two tens, the eighties have eight tens, etc. So what do we call the decade with zero tens? It should be something which implies “zero”.
Well, yeah, duh–but there’s no debate about what to call those decades; we use their titles–twenties, thirties, etc.–all the time. “He was born in the early '60’s; he’s now in his early forties. His wife is in her late thirties. Her mother is in her sixties, and her grandmother lived well into her nineties.”
What is not common in our speech is a word for that first decade; we just say, “a young child,” or “elementary-age children,” or something similar. I’ve never said, “I crashed my bike into that fence when I was in my ones.” If we had a common word for that decade (of life or of a century) we would have no problem. You had your twenties, and you had your teens, but you would never refer to your first ten years of life as your “double-oughts,” would you? Of course not–there’s nothing “zero” about them.
Yes, yes, I KNOW that the decade we’re in has four digits–all the years you and I will live in have four digits. But we abbreviate those decades with two-digit references, and the two digits we use are the tens and ones: Everybody knows that “That Seventies Show” refers to the 1970’s and not the 1870’s or 1770’s. If you’re hung up on the four-digit-year thing, get over it. We refer to decades (of life or of a century) using two digits all the time. I’m just saying that you can’t choose the middle two digits (of a year) to name one decade, then turn around and name all the others using the 3rd and 4th digits.