What is the Right Way to Say 2010?

Is it “twenty-ten” or “two thousand and ten?”

So, that's the big question: how do you say 2010, and 2011 etc.? Is there a right or wrong way?

If you need this answer quick, I’ll give it to you:

There is no “right” way to say 2010.

However, the upside is, there is no “wrong” way either. What we have is a bunch of people jockeying for attention because they aren’t getting enough from real writing projects and so must prance around crowing about non-existent grammatical rules. Now you’ll have to believe me when I tell you I am as bombastic a know-it-all as you will probably ever meet, and I bore my friends and family to death with the things about writing and grammar that I enjoy. However, one thing I cannot stand is grammar police, especially when they are passing out bad information. So, I am going to use my grammar geek powers for good right now, and save you from the evil grammar Nazis when it comes to this ridiculous, non-existent grammatical debate concerning 2010.

"Don't say it wrong; we're listening!"
"Don't say it wrong; we're listening!"

Grammar Police

There’s an organization called NAGG (National Association of Good Grammar) that has gotten some attention for itself claiming that it has the right way of saying 2010 – I struggled to even find their website, much less finding any reason why I should place their opinion over anyone else’s amongst the scads and scads of would be grammar police out there, none of whom should be given any authority when it comes to grammar, particularly for the grammar of speaking, which is what we are talking about here – we’re not talking written grammar; this “debate” is actually about how people talk. And, whoever this NAGG is, while they carry no weight in the grammatical world, you have to give them props for getting so much attention. The fact that they are being quoted all over proves how lazy researchers have become and how willing they are to just take whatever Google barfs up as law more than anything else.

However, my point is not to vilify the NAGG people. I’m sure they mean well, and I even bet they are capable when it comes to wielding language. The main point is that we are talking about the spoken word and not the written, and even more importantly, we are talking about grammar, for which no one, particularly NAGG and others of its ilk, have any say over you. For starters, grammar is a component of communication; it’s about structure and clarity, syntax, spelling, punctuation etc. There’s lots of stuff that falls under the umbrella of “grammar,” but ultimately the point is grammar exists to empower communication. There is no person out there who won’t know exactly what you are saying, whether you say “two thousand and ten” or say “twenty-ten.” Both are equally clear. Congrats, communication successful.

Grammar Nazi at work.
Grammar Nazi at work.

Grammar Rules

Grammatical “rules” come into being through tradition and repetition, and they come and go with equal regularity. There is a reason that the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associate Press Stylebook, the MLA stylebook and any number of others, including individual universities, publishing businesses and even corporations have developed their large tomes of grammatical rules: BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ONE AUTHORITY. Grammar is so confusing, and so unregulated, that all these entities create little sub-grammatical universes in which, at least for the believers of their grammatical religions, there is absolute rule. But, like religion, the rules only count if you buy into THAT particular book. Believers in the other popular books will argue that theirs is right. Etc., yawn, etc.

But ultimately, nobody owns the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary comes about as close to being “the” authority” on English as it gets, and anyone who has ever looked at it can tell you the compilers of the OED are the last people to pretend like they KNOW what anything means or how it should be used, and they definitely don’t tell you how to SAY anything. What they have done is recognize that words and meanings and pronunciations change, and they record as many of those changes as possible supported with rigorously researched efforts to date the period in which the change occurred and when, if at all, it went out of style again.

So, in this light, there is no “right” way to say 2010. Trust me on this. I don’t care how many people with degrees in English (or attitudes that make you believe they have one) tell you that you should say 2010 one way or another. I have spent a small fortune on my undergraduate and graduate degree programs in English, and I assure you, if there is ONE thing I got for the money thus far is the recognition that there are no hard and fast rules. There are guidelines, and some really well established precedents that, if you break them, you will stand out as defying tradition and, therefore, will require some really spectacular reasons for why you did so if you don’t want to look illiterate; but beyond that really long standing “basic” stuff, the 2010 speaking-grammar police (on either side) are full of it. You don’t have to believe me, the San Francisco Chronicle has a UC Berkeley professor on record saying essentially that, although he’s being much more tactful about it than I am. (Article HERE.)

Arguments for “Twenty-Ten”

Yes, if you count to twenty (this is a prevailing argument that uses “logic” to prove the “rule” being used and parroted even by local news agencies), you count, “one, two… ten, eleven… eighteen, nineteen, TWENTY.” Therefore, because of this, you “obviously” must say “twenty-ten” like you would have said “nineteen-ten.” Great, that’s very logical, and it follows from how the previous decades have been spoken, all the way back to perhaps the year 1010. Unfortunately, in 1010, we don’t know how they actually pronounced it because there are no recordings, so, we will be setting the precedent for this particular moment in time. We have a precedent for speaking it out as the first two numbers and the last two from the last few centuries, so, some support exists for saying it “twenty-ten.”

Plus, it’s short and sweet. It makes vernacular sense to say it short, and I bet this is how people will say it most of the time, in time.  However, that does not make it "right."

Arguments for “Two Thousand and Ten”

However, we have the last ten years of speaking out the year as “two thousand and whatever” as well, but that’s not all. In addition to the last nine or ten years, we have been speaking it out “the long way” for over forty years. Now, here’s where precedent really starts to kick in for the other side.

Precedents defining grammar comes from usage, generally literary and popular press/media combined. Arthur C. Clarke wrote his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey (along with Stanley Kubrick making the movie) in 1968. It was followed up with a 1983 sequel called 2010: Odyssey Two. Both of these literary and film frames of reference were pronounced the long-way, i.e., “Two thousand one” and “two thousand ten.” There were no bells of alarm at this pronunciation. THAT establishes a precedent for the longer version that has been standing for a considerable period of time. Even older, are speeches from long ago wherein the speakers have pronounced such things as, “The year of our lord nineteen hundred and blah-blah-blah” etc. Here’s a line right out of the U.S. constitution, “"the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven,” taken from article VII.

Don't respect their "authoritah!"
Don't respect their "authoritah!"

Conclusion

My point is not to prove that saying “two thousand and ten” is correct. My point is to prove that there is no “right” way to say 2010, and that you should not allow yourself to be dictated to by some self-appointed grammar police who have no such authority. Say it how you want, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be laughed at for their self-aggrandizing pomposity or given a hug to relieve the floundering lack of self-esteem that has brought them to such a state as to give them delusions of grammatical grandeur.

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Comments 35 comments

Back2Basics profile image

Back2Basics 6 years ago from Boothwyn Pa.

Very nice. I am sure this will help the water cooler arguments.


funnebone profile image

funnebone 6 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

I hope someone tries to correct me when I say two thousand and ten, I am just itching to take out my " I didn't get a zhu zhu pet" rage on someone


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

I think you should say two-thousand and ten provided you haven't already said twenty-ten, in which case you can say,"you know, the year after two-thousand and nine, or something else entirely, like, "shove off, Webster."

Of course, if you're in a hurry, like, say, speed dating, you should say twenty-ten, because there just isn't enough time. If on the other hand you are writing an article that pays by the word, always write two-thousand and ten, for obvious reasons.

Thanks for the informative article.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

NAGG would seem to be a wholly appropriate acronym here, no?

I don't think it matters how it is spoken either so long as the person receiving the utterance understands what is being said.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Hi Back2Basics. That's my hope, mainly to stop any grammar bullies from being to bossy at that water cooler.

Awww, poor Funnebone, no hamster for you eh? You can probably pick one up in a month for half price.

Chris... lol @ "Shove off, Webster." God, ain't that the truth. And I'm sure the speed dating version will be the most common usage, twenty-ten is easier to say. I just don't want people to be told they are "wrong" when they are not.

Springboard, I agree 100%. That's the point of speaking, to convey meaning.


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

Loved this, and I am here to tell you that I have ignored the grammar police for 78 years as many here know. Thanks!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

You have to ignore the grammar police. Or, if not that, throw your coffee or Pepsi on them when they talk. Keep up the good fight!!!! 78 years rocks.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country

Im going to say "twenty-ten".

I said it in the bank yesterday and the teller took my money without a blink.

Before the most recent turn of the century we used to say things like "nineteen-fifty two" or "nineteen-eighty-five". Way before that we said "nineteen-aught-four", at least I did. We never said "one-thousand-nine-hundred-and-four" or "one-nine-oh-four".

"Two thousand ten" would be written "2,010". The comma would make it confusing.

Say what you will; I'm saying "twenty ten".


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Of course you can say what you like.

Dissenters can go for a hike.

To me, twenty-ten

sounds better, but then

I'm older than Janny van Eyck


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I'm sure "twenty-ten" will be the overwhelmingly "normal" way people say it. My only issue is with the smug people trying to make people feel like they're doing it wrong purely for the sake of being right, but with zero actual grammatical grounds to stand on. It's like "either" as "ee-ther" or "eye-ther" etc.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

To be honest Shades I hadn't even considered that there was a right and a wrong way to say 2010, now I will have to seriously consider what way to express it next time I have to say it out loud, (so far it hasn't been necessary). I think of it as being a bit like you guys saying you dialled nine one one, or you dialled nine eleven, neither is wrong surely so long as the emergency services turn up after the call!!!

Great hub, an really made me smile as always :)


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks Misty. And donn't spend too much time considering how to say it. That's the whole point. Just say it however feels right. THere's no "wrong." Hope your new year is starting out awesome.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

This made me smile. Great hub.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I could not ask for a greater reward for something I wrote.

Well, I could ask for money, like, actually enough that I could quit working and only write real writing rather than agenda-based writing, but hey. :)


jiberish profile image

jiberish 6 years ago from florida

Realizing that just by saying twenty-ten I just became a year older is depressing no matter how it's said.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

LOL, well, there is that isn't there. I wish the OED had some grammar to undo time.


Jewels profile image

Jewels 6 years ago from Australia

I'm all for impartiality (is that grammatically correct?) Until this hub I hadn't thought about it nor had I verbalized it.

Now that I've that out of the way, Shades, howya goin'? What's news?


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Just the drudgery of a day job devouring the time I should be making art. Emerson was so right. /sigh But, on the grateful side, I'm doing fine, fed and happy.

How goes it for you; I trust you're weathering the global economy fair enough, eh?


Jewels profile image

Jewels 6 years ago from Australia

Drudgery. Oh dear, nevermind! I'm back at a day job part time - in real estate of all things to be in with the economy said to be failing? Overall doing ok. Helps if you've no debt and not slave to credit cards.

Been doing a stint of meditation too; Geez my mind never shuts up!

I had to verbalize 2010 yesterday. I used the twenty ten version, rolls better.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

I say "twenty ten" by default. When you say "two thousand and ten" you get an extra syllable for the 'and', and 'two thousand' has one more syllable than 'twenty' for a total of 2 extra syllables. Who has time for that shit?

But what about this scenario - Let's say you and I Shades, are having a beer (you, a Coors Light with the cold-activated label, and me, one of the darker, more vomit-like variety) and I say, "Hey Shades, remember when I told you about robbing that liquor store back in '89 and not getting caught?" Notice I'm saying eighty nine by itself. Not nineteen eighty nine, or one thousand nine hundred and eighty nine. So if we had this same conversation about the liquor store ten years from now, would it be acceptable for me to say, "Hey Shades, remember when I told you about robbing that liquor store in '10 and not getting caught?" Sounds weird to me. But I hope it's acceptable, because we're running into the teen years pretty soon, and some of them are going to be a freaking mouthful.

Which brings me to my newest endeavor - The P.U.S.S. Society. This is an acronym for Please Use Syllables Sparingly. I was inspired by your hub to form it. I am the only member, as it's only a few minutes old.

I'm hoping that you and some of your readers might be interested in becoming a charter PUSS. I'm waiving first month's dues.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Jewels, you're probably right about twenty-ten vs. the long way. I just can't help but rant when someone tries to dictate though, so I fought the good fight. PLUS, and this speaks to what Stan is saying, about the extra syllables, while "two-thou-sand" is three syllables as opposed to "twen-tee", thus an extra, it is still one less than "nine-teen-hun-dred" thus making it cheaper syllablistically (lol) than its predecessor and putting it back into contention for viability based on style at the cost of very little extra time. Just tossing it out.

That said, Stan, I'm not sure I would be willing to pay dues for a membership in PUSS, but, if it is free, I'm so there. (And I totally laughed out loud for actual at your little scenario of us drinking beers lawl).


Jewels profile image

Jewels 6 years ago from Australia

Great scenario Stan. I'm a bit of a purist, though not overly so that excess syllables detract from quick banter. Hmmmm, pondering somewhat on the PUSS membership. I think it will be a great success with lazy people with no style. I do have a major problem with acronyms that have multiple meanings so provided acronyms are excluded from the PUSS policy, I'm in. If you include acronyms I'm going to have to use anti acronym placards in front of your residence.


Denizee profile image

Denizee 6 years ago

Great Hub. I say two thousand & ten, like I said two thousand & nine - but this will probably change in our ever changing world with shortening things, and still being understood.

I enjoyed this.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I do too, Denizee, and probably will until my natural inclination is overwhelmed by the twenty-ten people,or until 2020 at which point it becomes far more lyrically natural to split it.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

Jewels, you're 'lazy people with no style' comment hit me right in the gut. I've decided to scrap the whole PUSS idea. From now on I'm going to increase my syllable count on the date as much as possible. Example: "Hey Jewels, remember when I told you about robbing that liquor store back in two thousand and ten, Anno Domini, which means the year of our Lord, and not getting caught?"

Much more sophisticated.


Jewels profile image

Jewels 6 years ago from Australia

Oh dear, what have I done?


ratnaveera profile image

ratnaveera 6 years ago from Cumbum

Very interestind and informative Hub! Right from now I am going to say it twenty-ten.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Probably setting yourself up well for colloquial tradition not yet made. Good call.


Sara Tonyn profile image

Sara Tonyn 6 years ago from Ohio, the Buckeye State

As I recall, we pronounced it "one-zero-one-zero". Those were the days, my friend.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

LAWL... well, then you stand as the world's singular expert qualified to speak to this issue. Two-zero-one-zero it is. lol


eslevy17 profile image

eslevy17 6 years ago

I love facetiously complaining about grammar, but this one definitely has no "correct" answer. We say "nineteen fifty," but we also say "two thousand five," and it would be weird to say "twenty-oh-five." Though on the other hand, someone might say, "remember back in oh-five?" I think everyone just picks whichever way sounds the least awkward and that's good enough if everyone still gets it. Though in some other countries they tend to say thousand every time, and it takes forever. I'm all about efficiency.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Yeah, I think you're right about no correct answer, Eslevy. And since there are no actual grammar police, only scrawny little birdlike people with thick glasses and large Adam's apples trying to enforce non-existent grammar rules, we can all relax. :D I am up for efficiency though.


inversicolor profile image

inversicolor 5 years ago from The City of Northern California

When I hear "Twenty-Ten" I will agree with them that we live in the year Thirty (30AF).

With another stretch that is 20 - 10 = Year Ten. Got it. I am nothing if not flexible.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Or, you might even go with the year 3, since 0 really has no value.


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