Monday, June 06, 2005

It's Two-Thousand-Five!

I often listen to the Cedar Rapids station (WMT 600) while I'm eating breakfast. There's one announcer on there who drives me nuts, because when he mentions the year 2005 he routinely says, "twenty-oh-five."

It's two-thousand-five, dammit! I am pleased to note that most people I hear, pronounce it as two-thousand-five. I repeat, the year 2005 is two-thousand-five.

"The year two-thousand-five" has a dignified ring to it; indeed, the ring of something great and grand. Whereas "twenty-oh-five" is paltry, thin, hollow, a year with the soul of a clerk.

It is my suspicion— unproven, but I think quite correct— that those who say "twenty-oh-five" hail disproportionately from the blue states. They are drawn in disproportionate numbers from those who approve of soulless modern concrete-slab architecture; those who like the new simplified and stripped-down design of our paper currency, which makes Ben Franklin look like a moronic deadeyes. They are those who prefer the style of church architecture from the early 1960s, with blond wood, with plenty of aluminum and clear plate glass, and with no steeple, like a community center and not a church. Show me someone who says "twenty-oh-five," and I'll show you a person who wants us to be resigned to living in the bleak, featureless, empty landscape of late, grey, sterile modernity.

Whereas "two-thousand-five" has to it the grand ring of empire; of thousands and millions and billions and vigintillions; of the starry host above and a glory that has no end. "Two-thousand-five" is in the same language as finials and cornices and Corinthian columns and domes and oculi and all that is great and dignified, from the architecture of ancient Rome to the old-fashioned $100 bill that looked like a $100 bill, dadgummit!

"Two-thousand-five" makes a man stand proud and tall with a strengthened spine, nerved and steeled for all the trying and ennobling Sturm und Drang that the new day may bring. While "twenty-oh-five" unstrings the bow, and prepares the milquetoast to submit to yet another day of nameless drone-work amidst the office cubicles of some faceless grey bureacracy.

It is no wonder that those who push the use of "twenty-oh-five," push the use of "twenty-oh-five." It is just one more way in which they pursue their agenda of making sure that we are all punched, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, and numbered. They will also support national identity cards with embedded RFID chips, and DRM built right into the Intel chip on your computer. They will support WI in place of Wisc. for Wisconsin, and CA in place of Calif. for California, as if we could all be reduced to some federally-mandated two-letter code. Whereas the tribe of "two-thousand-five" will stand tall to defend the liberty and dignity of man. You can hear the difference in the way they say the numbers.

I once got an e-mail from somebody who protested to me that "twenty-oh-five" is more logically consistent, "and I value logical consistency highly." I'll bet you do, twit: do you consult "logical consistency" on the best way to tie your shoelaces in the morning? My own view is that there is no necessary analogy between the usages of a new century and the nomenclature of a new millennium, as witness the fact that "nineteen-five" for 1905 is not ambiguous, while the year "twenty-five" (which I've actually heard from some people) is. Not that logical consistency carries the day— I maintain that (at least outside of mathematics and the physical sciences) perfect logical self-consistency is seldom a virtue, and is indeed often a serious vice.

You know, as in "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

By the time we reach the first year where the "twenty-something" usage will not be ambiguous, it will be the year 2010 and a decade of habit will have entrenched the "two-thousand-something" usage forever. It will be "two-thousand-ten," not "twenty-ten"; and then it will be "two-thousand-twenty" and "two-thousand-thirty" and "two-thousand-forty-five," in unbroken succession. In an unbroken succession handed down from times of old.

And it will be one minor step— one minor but real step— in reminding us of what our would-be overlords and their myrmidons would rather that we not be reminded of: namely, that we live in a world which is grand and great, and that the world does not end at the horizon.



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