The Nameless Decade

In Archives, Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

In linguistics, the Whorf Hypothesis states that language defines thought. I think the way we relate to the first decade of this century—the period from 2000 to 2009—is a case in point.

I think that because there’s no convenient name for this decade (“the Aughties”? c’mon), we don’t identify it as a coherent unit, as we do with other decades. In fact, when the decade ended, I literally didn’t notice: I’m only realizing they were a decade almost a year later, as it’s about to be “more than ten years since 2000.” More importantly, I haven’t seen the culture begin to try to sum up the period in the same broad way as other decades.

I think the same thing happened at the beginning of the 20th century. I have a concrete image of every other decade: World War I in the 1910s, the “Roaring” 1920s, and so forth. But the period from 1900 to 1909 is a sort of blank in my mind, during which Theodore Roosevelt may have been president. As it turns out, Roosevelt was president from 1901 to 1909, neatly spanning the period, but these years aren’t packaged as “the Roosevelt era” in my mind because there’s nothing to call them in the first place. One wonders what else we’re not thinking about.


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