Saturday, January 4, 2020

Still Life with Robin: It's the Blanking Twenties!

by Peggy Robin

We finally have entered a decade with an easy-to-say name. It’s The Twenties! Now, it’s still lacking an adjective, like “Roaring” for the 1920s or “Swinging” for the 1960s. But good adjectives don’t come easily – it can take a few years to earn one. Give it a little time.

For the past two decades, we’ve lacked any sort of adjective to sum up our 10-year timespans. Not just lacking an adjective, we’ve lacked something more basic: a noun. There’s been no general consensus about what to call either the first or the second decade of the century. For the years 2010 – 2019, some people said “The Tens” while others said “The Teens.” To those who like “The Teens,” I say, “What about 2010, 2011, and 2012?” Aren’t those “The Tweens”?

For the years 2000 – 2009 the situation was even worse. The Aughts? I never actually heard a living soul call it that. The Ohs? Or maybe the Oh-Ohs. I think I saw that in print once or twice. By writers trying to be cute. If you’re in the mood for more such cuteness, you’ll like this 1998 piece by Washington Post staff writer Linton Weeks, on the coming “Oh Oh Decade”:

(I wish I could claim that I discovered that Post article myself when researching this piece on what to call decades, but I must give credit where it's due -- to Washingtonian writer, Andrew Beaujon, who included the link in his very true, informative and amusing piece, “Finally, A Decade Whose Name We Can Agree On”:

While others hash out what to call each decade, we have no argument when it comes to naming the generations. Not only do we have a well-established brand for those born between 1980 and 1995 – all hail The Millennials -- who have recently overtaken the Baby Boomers as the most populous generation alive today), but we now have not one, but TWO post-Millennial generations that have been defined and named. Those born in the 15-year span (1996-2010) following the end of the Millennial generation are known collectively as Gen Z. If you’re wondering what happened to Gen Y – that’s the original name proposed for the Millennials, but it never really caught on. The day that Neil Howe and William Strauss came out with their 1991 book Generations, which contained their coinage of the term Millennials, that became the term everyone used, and Gen Y hardly ever saw ink. But Gen Z looks to have staying power.

And what comes after Z? The answer appears to involve a switchover to the Greek alphabet: Gen Alpha is what turns up when you google, “What comes after Generation Z?” And that should hold us for the next 360 years! (24 letters in the Greek alphabet times 15-ish years per each named generation). Of course, the naming mavens could always tire of Greek letters and come up with something unexpected….. I've never claimed to have 2020 vision into the future.

But enough of such idle speculation. Let’s start this decade with a helpful hint of immediate utility. Here it is:

When handwriting the date on  checks or legal documents all this year, be sure to write out the year with all four digits. Example: Write 1/4/2020 rather than 1/4/20. Why? So that some troublemaker can’t come along and add two more digits to the 20, turning it into another year – perhaps one in the past, making your check outdated.

Why would anyone do such a thing? Not sure, but why give them the opportunity? Security experts are telling us, if you can keep this from happening by writing two more digits, just do it. The fact-checking website looked into this virally-spreading security warning and deemed it credible: Of course, what they didn’t check into is the bigger assumption in this warning – that anyone is still hand-writing dates on important documents. Who still does that in 2020?!

Have a nice decade!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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