My Blog List

People I Know

Eclectic Folks

Media Blogs

Politics, Policy Blogs

Page Rank

Check Page Rank of your Web site pages instantly:

This page rank checking tool is powered by Page Rank Checker service

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

D is for Decade


It's five weeks into the new decade. There was no consensus on what to call the OLD decade: the zeroes, the aughts, the naughts?

This got me to thinking. How did some of the decades of the past get such colorful appellations? Specifically, why the Gay Nineties? Was there an excessive amount of nitrous oxide available? And what of the Roaring Twenties? What was so leonine about it, and did it have something to do with the MGM lion?

According to the Wikipedia, "The ('Gay Nineties') term...began to be used in the 1920s and is believed to have been created by the artist Richard V. Culter, who first released a series of drawings in Life magazine entitled 'the Gay Nineties' and later published a book of drawings with the same name. The high life of the 'old money' families was well documented in the novels of, for example, Edith Wharton, and Booth Tarkington." It was "sometimes referred to as the 'Mauve Decade,' because William Henry Perkin's aniline dye allowed the widespread use of that colour in fashion." That latter designation was totally unfamiliar to me. It's an interesting idea, given the fact that there was a depression in 1893 in the United States, following economic distress in Europe and elsewhere in the years before the collapse.

"The Roaring Twenties is a phrase used to describe the 1920s, principally in North America but also in London, Paris and Berlin. The phrase was meant to emphasize the period's social, artistic, and cultural dynamism." Likewise, "the Jazz Age describes the period after the end of World War I, through the Roaring Twenties, ending with the onset of
the Great Depression. Traditional values of the previous period declined while the American stock market soared. The age takes its name from popular music, which saw a tremendous surge in popularity. Among the prominent concerns and trends of the
period are the public embrace of technological developments typically seen as progress — cars, air travel and the telephone - as well as new modernist trends in social behavior, the arts, and culture. Central developments included Art Deco design and architecture."

While I had heard of the Dust Bowl, I was totally unfamiliar with this paired designation: The Dust Bowl or the Dirty Thirties was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940). The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques to prevent erosion."

Some have called the Fifties "Fabulous" but it was not a standardized definition, as far as I can tell. I can't help but think that some think of it as "fabulous" because of a post-WWII "normalcy", while others might find it likewise fabulous because of the growth of rock & roll.

The sixties were tumultuous, but again no one made that a designation that stuck. Whereas, "Novelist Tom Wolfe coined the term Me decade in New York magazine in August 1976 referring to the 1970s. The term describes a general new attitude of Americans towards self-awareness and away from history, community, and human reciprocity awareness, in clear contrast with the 1960s.

Will there be clear naming of these last three decades that we can agree on?

Here's something that had created some disagreement: some people seem to think that the new decade does not start until after 2010, and that it runs 2001-2010. This seems to come from a desire to create consistency, but it lacks logic. We know that the 19th Century ran from 1801 to 1900, and that the century is essentially named for the last year of the century, 1900. It's likewise true with the 20th Century and 2000 or the 21st Century and 2100. There are those who seem to think that the borders of the decades should fit into the borders of the century. But why?

Clearly the 1960s is named for 1960, the first year in the range 1960-1969. To suggest that it started in 1961 would be illogical; the year that names a decade should be IN the decade. Likewise, the Seventies started in 1970. The Aughts (or whatever), started in 2000, which, as noted, is the last year of the prior century. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

If consistency were in play, we might have 13 months, each four weeks long, with one or two off-calendar days, or perhaps a catch-up week every few years, as described here. Instead we have 30 days in "September, April, June and November", etc. Of course, if logic were in play, our ninth through twelfth months wouldn't have prefixes representing the numbers seven through ten, respectively.

Oh, one last thing: when you write 1960s, or 1990s or 1870s, please do not use an apostrophe; it's not 1960's or 1990's or 1870's. This source confirms my point. Which means that that lovely graphic above, which I purloined from the Chicago Sun Times newspaper, is, unfortunately, wrong!

Decade pictures courtesy of Life magazine, allowed for non-commercial use.

ROG

31 comments:

Kate said...

Roger, I always find your blog so interesting because of the research and all the information you include in your commentary.

Kate said...

PS. Come visit me at my new vacation blog:
http://mysantafe-kate.blogspot.com/

Gerald (Ackworth born) said...

Absolutely agree about the apostrophe - always the 1990s not 1990's - not sure if the last decade was the 2000s though - most folk in the UK talk of them being the "noughties" (or naughties!").

Sylvia K said...

Another great, interesting post, Roger. I always enjoy the information you share! Have a great week!

Sylvia

lv2scpbk said...

Why is it that a newspaper is usually the culprit (Is this spelled wrong? I hope not.) for wrong spelling and misinformation?

A real interesting and thought prevoking post. Glad you could join in on ABC Wed.

anthonynorth said...

Always interesting here. As for me, I didn't find the last decade particularly naughty.

Spiderdama said...

Interesting post as always:-)
Wish you a great evening!

jabblog said...

Really interesting post, Roger, as ever. I just lost the rest of my comment, clicking the wrong key. So before I do it again, have a good week.

Leslie: said...

Fascinating post! Really enjoyed reading through it ALL and found it most enjoyable. Thanks, Roger!

Reader Wil said...

Interesting Roger! I'd never thought of it before that decades got names. I always thought periods got names like :the Stone Age, the Roman period, the Viking period, the Dark Ages,Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Age. I agree with you that we have to write 1960s for it is a plural S, whereas in 1960's, the S is a possessive S. Ha, ha... Once a teacher...!;))

Mara said...

The term I've heard use most often about the first decade of this century is 'the naughties'. It's used quite extensively in the UK. In Dutch we don't even have a 'proper' name for that decade, it all sounds too silly...

photowannabe said...

Fascinating information and thanks for doing so much research about the different decades.

Life with Kaishon said...

Very interesting to read. I grew up in the 80s : ) Thanks for the grammar tip for sure : )

Tumblewords: said...

Thank you again for another fine post! Always a pleasure to visit here!

Hildred and Charles said...

A great post, - brings back many memories of the different decades we participated in, - going so very far back I fear.... Most interesting - thank you Roger.

Paula Scott said...

Brilliant! Really good points; really informative. Really good questions-why don't we have names for all of the decades?
And, what a brilliant choice for "D's"!

Jama said...

Your posts are always so informative!

Jedediah said...

At least there are some words in English for this decade, nothing in German really works.
For me (born in 1979), the thing that represents the 70s in Germany is the RAF - a bit unfair I guess, but you can't get past them when reading about the 70s.

About the Freshman komodo dragon (which was actually a water monitor): I've seen that movie (Brando is so awesome), but I always thought that it had been a green iguana. Probably because green iguanas really get eaten and I think that komodos probably taste awful, cnosidering their diet ;)

Gordon said...

I grew up in the fabulous 50s but was too young to know it! An interesting and well researched post.

Pam said...

The amount of info you post is incredible. What a wonderful D post. Well done, Rodger.

RuneE said...

Maybe we have just passed the Deadly Decade? The Dull Decade would Definitely be wrong.

Nydia said...

I agree with Kate! There are always great info and a fun way of posting about new things. I'm on my 40 decade, and do hope to live mor4 40! :o)

Kisses from Nydia.

Joy said...

The human compulsion to name things. An interesting mix Roger. Never heard of the fabulous fifties, there was still rationing at the beginning of that decade in the UK, don't remember that but I was around in the sixties, and they were always called the swinging sixties (sex, drugs,rock & roll and fashion which broke with the previous decade).
I've heard this present decade called the teenies but who knows what will happen in the years to come to give it its name.

Sheila said...

I'm so glad someone agrees with me about leaving out the apostrophes, though I did once have a long and interesting discussion on the subject with a one-time boss. He maintained that the number 1960 is a contraction and so the apostrophe merely is confirmation of that.

I was a student in Liverpool for the latter part of the 60s, so from my point of view, it's the Definitive Decade.

raf said...

Good choice for ABC Wednesday and a wonderful post, Roger.

magiceye said...

that was interesting ...

Gattina said...

What a hairdo, lol ! But fashion comes always back.

dana said...

Interesting and informative, as usual! Now my brain is swimming in numbers!

jay said...

It's always interesting how another country views the same time period. We too had the Roaring Twenties, but instead of the Gay Nineties (did you know you have a typo in there, by the way - you call in the Gay Nighties at one point! LOL!) we had the Naughty Nineties. And the sixties over here were 'Swinging'.

LisaF said...

You always do such a great job with your posts. I really enjoy reading them.

Shady Gardener said...

Interesting points... I would say you could use the apostrophe IF you were referring to something that belonged to that decade... such as the 20's exclusive fashions, or the 60's Baby Boomer identity crises? ;-) Have a great weekend!