By John Schaffner
I don’t know if we have a complacent readership, or I just haven’t written any commentary pieces for months that have been worthy of stimulating reader comment. I thought maybe this old argument might just be the stimulant needed to begin the New Year and entice some reader participation.
The question is: What is the beginning of a new decade? (Did the new decade begin the first day of 2010, or does it not begin until the first day of 2011?)
I managed to stimulate quite an email and office discussion about this with some members of the Reporter Newspapers team during the first week of the New Year. We agreed to disagree.
You see, I guess I am a traditionalist and follow the dictates of the calendar we use in the U.S. It is one of the few times I actually agree with Neal Boortz. We contend the new decade will begin Jan. 1, 2011.
Most in our office, however, prefer to accept “common usage” as their guideline and thus believe the new decade began Jan. 1, 2010. After all they say, “We refer to the decade of the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘90s, etc., which means the decade begins on the first day of the year that ends in a zero.” In other words, Jan. 1 2010 began the decade of the 2010s. Boy, does that sound strange.
This discussion began when I pointed out that Amy Wenk’s story about going off to India refers to the Jan. 1 being the first day of the new decade. I e-mailed some staff people and said we should not make that mistake again. I told them, “The year 2010 is the last year of the present decade. The year 2011 begins the new decade.”
When I was challenged by a couple of the staff members—who, incidentally, said they thought the dictionary would support their view—I, of course, went to Webster’s Dictionary to check out the gospel.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a decade the following way: “A period of ten years; esp. in the Gregorian calendar. Officially a 10- year period beginning with the year 1, as 1921-1930, 1931-1940. In common usage, a 10-year period beginning with a year 0, as 1920-1929, 1930-1939.”
Webster’s continues by pointing out that the Gregorian Calendar is the one used by us in the U.S. “Introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and now used in most countries of the world, it provides for an ordinary year of 365 days and a leap year of 366 days every fourth…”
As far as I am concerned, that is the calendar we follow. We either follow it all the way, or maybe we should scrap it for another calendar—maybe something other than 365 days with a leap year…something that has a new decade beginning Jan. 1, 2010 instead of the way the Gregorian Calendar would place it at Jan. 1, 2011.
Don’t be shy, join in the discussion and tell us what you think.