Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not So Fast!

Here are several of the headline articles in today's edition of Salon's e-mail newsletter, "Today in Salon":
      * Andrew O'Hehir on the best movies of the decade
      * Directors of the decade: No. 3: The Coen brothers
      * Stephanie Zacharek on the best movies of the decade
      * Films of the decade: "Spirited Away"
      * Films of the decade: "Up the Yangtze"

Add to this the hideous number of ads--print and e-mail--TV commentators' (I can hardly bring myself to call more than a couple of them "reporters") pronouncements, and other odds and ends, and one might be excused for thinking that the decade is drawing to a close.

Well, it is. In about a year.

It's not difficult, nor is it tricky. Whenever we reach this point in a decade, someone tries to argue that it has to do with the Julian calendar, or the Jewish calendar or which year Jesus of Nazareth might have been born, or sunspots, or whatever. In fact, none of those has anything to do with when a decade begins and ends.

A decade is a span of ten years--presumably we can all agree on that.

No matter where you start counting, you don't have a "zeroth" year. You start with Year One. So the first decade -- Mayan calendar, Chinese calendar, insurance company calendar -- is Year One through Year Ten.

And there's our pattern: Decades begin in years that end in 1 and end in years that end in 0.

Like 2010, for instance.

So in the commonly used Gregorian incarnation of the Anno Domini or Christian Era calendar, the current decade began on the first day of 2001 and will conclude on the last day of 2010. Because we count them from 1 through 10, not from 0 through 9.

I don't make the rules; I merely enforce them.

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