January 6, 2008

Two Thousand Eight

A New Year's letter to the Globe and Mail reads:

Why, oh why, do people say two thousand and eight?" Shouldn't it be called twenty-oh-eight," in the same way that we said "nineteen ninety eight", "eighteen ninety nine" etc. etc.?

I've never heard anyone say "nineteen hundred and forty two". Have you? Please explain.
Zelda Ruth Harris, Toronto

I think people say two thousand eight--generally discarding the 'and' as superfluous--for the same reason they say nineteen ninety eight--verbal fluency. Nineteen hundred ninety eight is cumbersome and takes too long to spit out. Twenty oh-eight takes no longer to say than two thousand eight, but I've never encountered an epiglottis that was comfortable with a three word phrase it's impossible to speak without a break between the first and second word. People will soon enough be saying twenty ten, but only those with a pedantic bent and a tin ear will ever say twenty oh-nine.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides


Nonnie Augustine said...

2k8! It's snazzy, quick, and sounds like the mob came up with it. I like it, but, hey, that's me. Nonnie

Martin Heavisides said...

It's the only variation that I could easily imagine being incorporated into a musical. Good rhythm for patter and tapdancing both.