Well, it’s “two thousand seventeen,” according to people who like to say things the long way. Why not “twenty seventeen”?
But syllables are cheap, you say. Our housing costs are skyrocketing and the Fed has raised interest rates, but syllables? They’re free! Heck, why not add another one and say it’s “two thousand *and* seventeen.”
Well I’ll tell you why not: I’m busy! Aren’t you? Do you even realize how many cat videos you haven’t seen yet?
But the crazy thing is, even news announcers say “two-thousand” instead of “twenty” when they say the year. And those people are professional talkers whose air time is managed down to the micro-second, so if they don’t see the gross wastefulness of their ways, this may be a lost cause.
Now I know what you’re thinking — saying “two thousand seventeen” instead of “twenty seventeen” just takes, what? A tenth of a second longer? Well you’re not looking at the big picture. Say it ten times a day for a decade, that’s an hour of your short life you’re not gonna get back. Multiply that by more than three hundred million native English speakers and you can see the scale of the problem.
So how did we get into this dire situation? It started during the first decade of this millennium, when it took no longer to say “two thousand one” than to say “twenty-oh-one”: an even four syllables either way.
The year “twenty ten” is when we could really have started to save time, but nope — people just kept saying “two thousand ten,” “two thousand eleven,” like zombies, if zombies could count.
The light at the end of this dark tunnel is three years from now, when the year “twenty twenty” arrives. How will anyone be able to resist the catchy symmetry? I have faith we’ll finally get back on track and start conserving syllables once again, because we’ve done it before — before this wayward millennium began.
After all, we didn’t sing “tonight we’re gonna party like it’s one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine.” Now did we?
With a Perspective, I’m Ben Carlson.
Ben Carlson is a public relations consultant who lives in San Francisco.