January 10, 2000
Welcome to the ????s
We've celebrated the new millennium and survived the computer rollover to a new century. What should we call this new decade that follows the 90s?
Magazines and newspapers across the
United States have made suggestions and taken surveys
to find a name for the new decade. Here is a list
of some of the possibilities. Do you have suggestions
that aren't on the list?
Ohs: Gives a sense of wonder and surprise. Oh
is also used as a substitute for zero in spoken
language, "He lives at one-oh-eight Larkspur Lane."
Aughts: The leading choice of participants in
both the Time Magazine and USA Today surveys.
Aught is an old English word meaning zero. Actually,
aught originated from an incorrect division of
the phrase "a naught," which became "an aught."
Naughts or Noughts: Two variations meaning nothingness
or nonexistence. Maybe this name will catch on
among the doomsayers.
Double-Os: Reminiscent of James Bond, gives a
sense of adventure, risk-taking, and sophistication.
2Ks: Sounds rather hi-tech, where people are used
to measuring bytes in kilo-, mega-, and giga-
units. This name will remind us of the close call
with the Y2K bug.
Onesies: In keeping with the previous decades--the
seventies, the eighties, the nineties, and then
Zeroes: A no-nonsense description of the numerical
values of the years from 2000 to 2090.
Zips: Slang for none or nothing, gives a perky
sense to the new decade.
MMs: Based on the Roman numeral for 2000, some
people object because this looks like free advertising
for a popular candy. And will we pronounce it
language is dynamic, constantly adding new words and
changing the meanings of others. Such words are called
neologisms, which Webster's dictionary defines as
"a new word, usage, or expression." According to some
estimates, 90,000 new words were added to the English
language during the twentieth century, representing
a 25% increase in the total number of words.
often difficult to say when a word has established
itself in the English language. Many words are
first coined in a special context--science, the
military, etc.--and only much later are recognized
and used by the public. For example, the word
"television" first appeared in Scientific American
in 1907. The first patents for television-related
inventions were filed in 1923. Televisions began
to find their way into family living rooms in
the 1930s, and became a standard item only after
World War II. Although it is difficult to determine
when the word "television" established itself,
it was probably well after its initial usage in
buzzwords or slang have an identifiable point
of introduction. For example, the phrase "Generation
X" to describe the generation born between approximately
1961 and 1980 was coined by Douglas Coupland from
his book of the same name. Other words and phrases
are popular for a short time and then disappear
from common usage, such as information superhighway.
No one "decides" what words are used or not; it
happens over time. Some words or phrases take
a long time to catch on, others are popular for
a short time and then disappear. There are no
rules for neologisms.
is too early to say what name will become "the
definitive name" for the new decade. We will have
to wait and see what name emerges as the winner.
Ultimately, the public will decide.
More on Words
If you are intersted in learning
more about the meaning and etymology of words,
you can look at these sites:
a delightful look at English usage
Word a Day, you can also subscribe to
receive a new word every day by email
Wide Words, a collection of articles on
words and usage
book may be of interest: