Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some thoughts on dates.

And I mean the historical kind, not the fruit. This blog is called Daniel's Musings, after all, not Daniel's Boring Everyday Life (although there will be some of that occasionally. I beg your indulgence at those times). But, about those musings. If you're like me, you've heard plenty about the "new decade" in the last two or three weeks. And frankly, I am sick and tired of it.

The reason I am tired of hearing about how 2010 is the start of the new decade, is because it's not. It's the end of the last decade. Just like the year 2000 wasn't the first year of the third millennium; it was the last year of the second.

This may sound a little strange to you, if you haven't thought about it before. The reason for it is because there was no year zero. Our dating system goes directly from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1. (a diversion on the use of A.D.: It typically goes before the date it represents and not after because it is a Latin abbreviation for Anno Domini, roughly translated "year of the Lord", and it makes more sense to have it in front [unless you are discussing centuries. The 'nth' century A.D. is perfectly fine] I'm not certain about C.E. [Common Era], never having used it much, but I believe, just to muddy the waters, it goes behind the date.)

Anyway, short diversion aside, what was the first decade of the A.D.'s? It would be the years 1-10. Think about it. That makes A.D. 10 the last year of the first decade. Likewise for the first century: the year 100 would be the last year of the first century, and the year 101 would be the first year of the second century. Ditto for millennia: the year 1000 was the last year of the first millennium, just as the year 2000 was the last year of the second (maybe that's why Arthur Clarke made it 2001: A Space Odyssey. He wanted it to be a next-millennium thing).

Once you grasp this, the number of centuries makes more sense. Start again with the first century A.D. The first century ended with the year 100. The second century ended with the year 200. But it would consist of the 100's, numerically. The 3rd century, ending in 300, would consist of the 200's. And so on and so forth. The 11th century (the 1000's) ended with the year 1100, the 17th (the 1600's) with the year 1700, and the 20th (the 1900's) with the year 2000. Basically, when you hear the number of a century, subtract one from it to get the numbers of the years in it. When you remember this simple little tidbit of information, deciphering history become much easier, because you can place what happened in a particular century into its proper place in time. Anyway, I hope it works for you. It's just a little trick I use to help keep tabs on history. Personally, I find history fascinating and can't understand how people could find it boring, but whether you do or not, hopefully this trick will help you make sense of it.

And now you know why calling 2010 the first year of the second decade bugs me so much. Now you, too, know the secret of the numbering of time. Please use it responsibly.

In other, boring-everyday news, I seem to have contracted a cold over the last few days. Nothing major, as usual with me and colds, but a petty annoyance that refuses to go away. At least it happened over a long weekend. I hope that you, my readers, are doing better than I am, and until next time, a hui hou!

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