What really grinds my gears close

David Hart
20th October 2011
What really grinds my gears

Another month and another light-hearted rant in a series that we have called “Grind my gears” after the popular US cartoon, Family Guy.

This month up 2012.

Not the Olympics and what life might be like in living and working in London, or the outlook for our economy and the way it seems to be sluggishly making its way to another year or underwhelming growth.

No, the thing that really grinds my gears is the fact that right now we appear to be living in the year 2011 (pronounced two thousand and eleven), whereas on the strike of midnight on 31st December, we’ll be in 2012 (pronounced twenty twelve). So why the change in the structure of how we pronounce the year?

"Is that it? Is that your gripe for the month"? I can almost hear you saying. OK it’s not a massive issue, but doesn’t that kind of thing bug you? It’s the sort of thing that I lie awake thinking about and I’ve got a 10 month old baby at home, so lying awake really does grind my gears.

I can kind of understand why we had two thousand and six because pronouncing 2006 as twenty six would just make it sound like 26. But, in theory, we could have just switched to twenty ten once that confusion could be avoided. But we didn’t. We stuck to the two thousand and ten pronunciation, maybe out of a sense of continuity or a feeling that twenty ten sounded a bit too zingy. As in, “Hey catch ya on the flip-side in twenty ten, dude”.

I think, however, that when we won the Olympics back in 2006, we all somehow assumed that 2012 would be pronounced in the same way as 2020 or 1980 and so it became part of our collective consciousness. But once we get to 2012, will we carry on the tradition in 2013 and beyond, or will we revert back to two thousand and thirteen? I just don't know.

All this led me to wonder what they did at the beginning of the last century. Did they ever say nineteen hundred and eleven or was it always nineteen eleven? We all know how we pronounce the 1914-18 war, but are we only seeing that through the benefit of history? We refer to 1908 as nineteen o eight but did they say it like that? I think that once we have got used to the pronunciation of 2012, we’ll refer backwards to the years 2011 and 2010 in the same way and so the notion that it was ever two thousand and eleven will be lost to history.

And while we’re on the subject, when we were in the 1980s and the 1990s it was easy to refer to them as the eighties and nineties. We occasionally hear reference to the years 2000-09 being the naughties but it somehow feels cumbersome and trying to be a bit funny so most people don’t bother. But if naughties is the correct term, what are the hinter years before we reach the twenties supposed to be called? The teens? Surely not – it’s not even accurate: you wouldn’t call an eleven-year old a teenager. Maybe the tens?

Anyway, these things shouldn’t occupy my mind. They don’t matter, people don’t get sick, nobody cares and the world doesn’t fall over because of it and I have more important things to be contemplating. But, folks it’s the very fact that I can’t help myself and now I’ve wasted another 20 minutes of my time writing about it (and if you've got this far, a couple of minutes of yours too), that really grinds my gears.