I’m suddenly responsible for a bi-monthly newsletter that shall go nameless in these pages (at least until I’m no longer responsible for it). I wasn’t responsible for it when it mentioned that 2010 was the beginning of a new decade, but I do have to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged pedants.
They want me to publish a correction, stating that January 1st, 2011 is the actual start of the new decade. I don’t buy it and I’m not gonna do it.
Oh, I understand that there was never a year 0, so the first year in our calendar was 1, and the first decade ended on December 31st, 10, not December 31st, 9.
But I still don’t buy it. Here’s why:
Tell me what decade was the one with all the hippies? The 60s, right?
When was disco king? The 70s, I’d say.
When was greed “good”? The 80s.
No one would say that something happened in “the 70th decade of this millennium,” and certainly not “the 197th decade AD.” We just don’t count that way when we talk about decades. Instead, we refer to them by the number in the tens column. The term “the sixties” doesn’t include 1970, but it does include 1960.
I don’t know what we’re going call the next ten years, but whatever term we come up will include 2010 and won’t include 2020. So no “correction” needed.
[The Volokh Conspiracy has a post on the same subject with the same conclusion.]