"Y2K Rant"

© 1999 by Andersen Silva

I first addressed this in a Vitriol column in 1995. Obviously, it's in our faces now, so I thought I should rant again.  ;)  No, I'm not talking about the millennium bug, but about the fact that so many people think the millennium, the century, and the decade are going to end when December 31, 1999 becomes January 1, 2000.

I can see the looks on your faces now. I know mine isn't a popular viewpoint, although several scientists, mathematicians, politicians, cartoonists, and celebrities (and even Dana Scully on the 11-28-99 episode of "The X-Files") have already stated, as I have, that the new millennium begins in 2001. What catches everyone's eye, however, is that 199- becoming a 200-.

Let's look at it realistically, though, shall we? The first year of the calendar we use, the first Anno Domini or Year of Our Lord, was the year in which Christ was supposed to have been born. (Another rant, for another day...) This year is not referred to as 0 A.D., but rather 1 A.D. All decades, centuries, and millennia start from this point. Therefore...

The first decade consisted of the years 1 through 10 A.D. The first century consisted of the years 1 through 100 A.D. And the first millennium consisted of the years 1 through 1000 A.D. Each of these periods begins on a -1 year and ends on a -0 year. Sooo...

The '60s really began on January 1, 1961, and ended on December 31, 1970. The twentieth century ends on December 31, 2000. And the third millennium (along with the twenty-first century) begins on January 1, 2001. I don't care if you like it. I don't care if you're going to be celebrating a year early with most of the world. Facts is facts.

You may be saying, "Well, what do you care? It's just an arbitrary dating system anyway, set up by some Catholic." Which is true. In the end, I don't much care about the beginning of the 'third millennium.' I don't expect any great upheaval in the world or in my life as the result of some numbers changing. But if you're going to celebrate it, if you're going to make a big to-do over it, then get it right! How upset would people be if I held a 75th Anniversary D-Day memorial in 2018? Even if I got 500 million people to go along with it, it wouldn't make it accurate...

Consider the following analogy: Someone back in the history of the English language came up with the contraction "you're," short for "you are." The word sounds the same as "your" and "yore," but all three words have different meanings and are not interchangeable according to the rules of English grammar. I could argue that this 'rule' is arbitrary and was made up by some long-dead guy. I could argue that a different word should have been assigned as the contraction, or that no such shortcut should have been allowed. But convention has resulted in the acceptance of this 'rule' and all the rules of grammar, just as convention has resulted in the acceptance of a long-dead monk's declaring the first year of the current calendar system to be 1 A.D. If he'd used 0, then there'd be no argument; all decades, centuries, and millennia would begin in years ending with -0. But that ain't the way it happened, and therefore the definitions of decades/centuries/millennia, and mathematics and logic, dictate that those who celebrate the start of the third millennium on New Year's Eve, 1999, are a year early. Sorry. But you can't switch the rules halfway through. I know the zeros look prettier, but...