As the first decade of the 21st Century comes to an end, no one has yet managed to answer the question, “What should we call this decade?”
Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, cannot escape the question: What should we call this decade? We have the ’80s, the ’90s, and . . . the “twenty hundreds”?
Sheidlower has faced the query, often posed in panicky tones, at cocktail parties, in letters to the editor, and in phone calls to his word-saturated office. The anxiety began in the mid-’90s, then stretched into the early whatchamacallits — Aughts? — and has now reached fever pitch as the decade winds to a close.
With six days remaining until the ’10s begin, Sheidlower has bad news for those searching for the answer. “For years and years, people have been seeking a solution,” he said. “Well, it never happened. We don’t have a name for the decade. Sorry.”
Dictionary editors, linguists and even radio DJs say we have entered a semantic black hole in which the English language failed to produce a term for the outgoing decade in the same way it has failed to find a catchy moniker for your former in-laws. (Out-laws never stuck.) The language is stumped. The Zeroes? The Ohs? The Oh-Ohs? Help!