The forgettable decade

On New Year’s Day, I speculated (via Twitter) that we’ve now made it through the better part of this decade without giving it a single clear name. And not for lack of trying… we’ve seen suggestions ranging from the Noughties to the Zeroes. The point is that none of these has stuck in the popular imagination. VH1 has a series of TV shows variously called “I Love the 80s” and “I Love the 90s”. What do they call the show about this decade? I Love the New Millennium. This name, I feel, will reveal certain flaws over time.

Martin Wattenberg replied to my Twitter message, “And lacking a name for the decade, no one talks about it. Sapir-Whorf redux?” I had just been pondering this. Sapir-Whorf says that the nature of our thinking is colored by the nature of our language. So, if the linguistic “handle” for the First Decade is particularly slippery, perhaps it will transitively render the things that happened that decade as less memorable.

It’s been a newsworthy decade by any measure, but I can’t help but wonder if, historically speaking, George W. Bush will get off easier than otherwise because he had the good fortune to stumble into an exceptionally forgettable decade.

Does anybody know of languages where the First Decade doesn’t present any linguistic difficulties? Presumably in such a language the first decade of each century would show to better effect in the history books.

4 thoughts on “The forgettable decade”

  1. The Long Now Foundation could point out at least one problem with the “New Millennium”. I’m betting “The Ohs” will win in the end, and will often be mispunctualized “The Oh’s”.

    I just listened to this today:

    It relates tangentially to your questions about mapping thought to language. “Give the muffin to the mouse” or “Give the mouse the muffin”?

  2. I believe the historians are going to solve this by calling it “The Bush Years” or “The Decade of Bad Feelings.” It’s also quite possible that they’ll put 2000-2007 in the “long 90’s” and 2008+ into the decade with the -teens.

    No reason to fret over the language of memory.

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