Monday, January 10, 2011

Twenty Eleven

Not two-thousand-eleven.

And certainly not two-thousand-AND-eleven.

We all have our pet peeves. Nails on chalkboard kind of stuff — like Glenn Beck;

or how Walmart never sells the right replacement mophead, even though I bought the mop there;

or calling customer service – any customer service.

The list goes on and on.

My #1 pet peeve has lasted over a decade. It goes something like this: someone – anyone – says, “Two thousand AND [fill in the year here].”

Whoever you are – and you know who you are – you need to stop it right now. During that whole exasperating decade nearly everyone stuffed an “and” in there. I cringed my way through the aughts.

In 1999, as we approached the 21st century I looked to the previous turn of the century for guidance. Back then they said nineteen hundred for 1900, then they said nineteen-o-one for 1901, nineteen-o-two for 1902, and so on. Therefore I assumed we would say two thousand for 2000 and twenty-o-one for 2001, etc. I figured the folks at CNN – after consulting the experts – would lead the way on that front. Weren’t they, after all, the ones who taught us how to say Qatar? BTW, it’s “cut-ter” – not “kuh-TAR” or “KUH-tar”. But nobody pronounces Qatar right either. So there you go.

Instead the aughts turned into a pronunciation free-for-all. How did they ever come up with the cursed (that’s CUR-sed to you) two thousand AND one for 2001, anyway?

Turns out this was all Stanley Kubrick’s fault.
According to The Stanley Kubrick archives, in the press release for his film 2001: A Space Odyssey, film director Stanley Kubrick included specific instructions for journalists to refer to the movie as “two thousand and one” instead of the commonplace pronunciation of “twenty-oh-one”. Kubrick said he did this in the hope that if the film became popular, it would influence the pronunciation of that year.
That’s right. We handed over the most significant dictum of the 21st century to a filmmaker. Not just any filmmaker, but a filmmaker who said, “I never learned anything at all in school and didn’t read a book for pleasure until I was 19 years old.” What does it say about our society when the great historical grammarians of our time conceded to the whim of a man who dreamed up HAL, a creepy jihadist computer?

Of course Kubrick died in 1999, so he didn’t have to live through the havoc he hath wrought. Computers have continued to terrorize human beings and we got stuck with “two-thousand-and- one: a grammatical oddity”.

I always knew in my gut it should be 20-0-1, etc. The problem was, saying “twenty-o-one” elicited blank stares. Like I’d written a French 7 or something. It never caught on. It wasn’t so much that the experts didn’t agree. They just didn’t care.

They had forgotten what the true prophets – 1960s pop duo Zager and Evans – taught us “In the Year 2525”. A simple song title. We had it all figured out back then. We didn’t sing, “In the year two-thousand-five-hundred-AND-twenty-five.” That never would have hit the Top 40.

Maybe we were all just smarter back then.

By 20-0-2, I acquiesced and said two thousand two. But I never said two thousand AND two, like the rest of those rubes.

Last year – TWENTY TEN – I thought for sure was my year. Everyone would wake up on January 1, 2010, and realize their decade-long slight of tongues. They would instantly reform. They would say, “twenty ten” – and embrace it.

Never happened.

Well this year I have help. There’s a movement afloat – well actually just a blog – and a Facebook page– to encourage people to Say Twenty Eleven, please. Maybe I should adopt a lighter approach. Instead of name calling and demanding people correctly pronounce 20-11, I should encourage people to change their idiotic ways – er – old habits.

So here goes …

We can do it. We can change. I know we can.

Twenty. Eleven.

That wasn’t so hard, now was it?

Practice saying it once or twice a day– in public. Instead of “Happy New Year”, say, “Happy Twenty Eleven.” It will catch on and before you know it, everyone will be saying, “Twenty eleven.”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It begins one person at a time.

Thank you.

Happy Twenty Eleven!

Peggy Tibbetts

Coming in 2011 –

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx


  1. Peggy, good luck with your crusade. 20 11, There I've said it. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. This cracked me up. You get 'em, Peggy!

    (Twenty eleven, twenty eleven, twenty eleven. I'm practicing...)

  3. LOL. Great post. I must confess, I'm guilty. Now I know better. Twenty eleven. Got it.

  4. I've been guilty! I've heard it said both ways. I say twenty-eleven now.

  5. I am so proud of all of you. As writers we really do have a responsibility to be leaders in the pronunciation police. To Twenty Eleven and beyond ...