Calling time – giving names to eras

By Nic Price on 1 January 2020 — 1 min read

(I tweeted this last week, and realised it’s the closest thing to a blog post I’ve written for a while, so I thought I’d turn it into one.)

We’re entering the twenties. The 2020s.

Will they be roaring like a century ago?

In Western society the Roaring Twenties was a time of possibility and progress, and in France was known as les années folles (the crazy years). In the US it ended with the Great Depression and the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

I’ve still no idea how to refer to 2010-1019 or 2000-2009.

“It’s the end of the 2010s. Do you remember the twenty tens?” It doesn’t sound right. I wonder if the twenty tens is more linguistically problematic that the nineteen tens.

The noughties – seriously? The 20 hundreds? At what point might it take over the moniker the turn of the century? Or has that been confused by the millennium?

What other decades have their own nickname? And I wonder whether blocks of time are given the same treatment in other cultures and languages.

Most eras seem to be defined by major events or by political leaders.

The 1890s are known as the Gay Nineties in the US, and the Naughty Nineties in the UK.

The London-centric term Swinging Sixties was apparently coined on 15th April 1966.

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