This falls more into the category of a language observation than a language abuse or grammar error, but it’s interesting to note that ever since the beginning of the 21st century, we’ve nearly unanimously changed the way in which we refer to the year.

In the last century, we invariably referred to the year in terms of two separate numbers, “19” and the year in question, such as “85,” “73,” or “98.” The only exception was when making a reference to the years before 1910, which were typically referred to as “19” and “oh 8” or, less frequently, “zero 8.” Rarely were the years referred to in words, such as “nineteen hundred and seventy three” or “nineteen hundred and eight.”

Something magical happened when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000 (and I’m not talking about world-wide disasters related to Y2K since that was one of the most overblown threats in the history of the world)–we suddenly changed the way in which we refer to years. It is now extremely rare to hear someone refer to the year as “20” and “oh 8” or “zero 8.” Nearly without exception, the year is referred to as “two thousand and eight.”

I’m not sure why this change has happened or what it says about language, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder.


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3 Responses to 2008

  1. Frume Sarah says:

    I’ve always fancied “aught eight.”

  2. mightyredpen says:

    I’ve always thought there’s something more satisfying about saying “two thousand eight” instead of “twenty oh eight” but I have wondered if we’ll all keep this up after we get to “two thousand ten.”

  3. Darrell Turner says:

    Paul and Sherry,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and am enjoying it. However, I’m puzzled by your use of the word “media” as a singular noun in several of your postings. You both regularly decry the idea that something is grammatically correct because it’s used frequently, so I know that can’t be your reason. The Associated Press Stylebook is one of several references that consider “media” to be a plural noun. What’s your reason for using it as a singular?

    Reply from Paul and Sherry: Darrell, the use of media doesn’t seem to be as clear as many of the other grammar errors and language abuses that we’ve talked about; however, now that you mention it, this warrants further research. We’ll add it to our list of future posts, and thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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