Dec 182009

Here we are almost at the end of 2009 and there is no clear consensus as to what to call this decade.

The most common term that I’ve seen in my own un-scientific perusal of the Internet has been “the aughts”. I should like to argue that this term is exactly backwards, as a quick perusal of the OED will show. The commonly held belief is that “aught” means “nothing” or “zero”. A common example of this is the voicing of the name of the 30.06 rifle and round; “thirty-aught-six”. “Thirty” being the caliber and “aught-six” being the year of introduction.

Unfortunately this is a misnomer, although a very deeply ingrained one. The word “aught” actually means “something”, not “nothing”. Here’s what the OED says:

A. n. (pron.) Anything whatever; anything. In interrogative, negative, and conditional sentences.

The term “naught” is uncommonly used in the United States. What Americans call “Tic-tac-toe” is called “Noughts and Crosses” in the UK. “Nought” is a variant spelling of “naught”. As I’m sure you can infer by now, “naught” means “zero”, or “nothing”. Here is the definition per the OED:

A. pron.
1. Nothing, not anything; = nought pron. 1a. Now arch. and literary.

So if your decade ends in two zeros, it seems to me that it should be called the “naughts” rather than the “aughts”.

But decades are often given additional descriptions, usually in retrospect; “the roaring twenties” and the “swinging sixties” come to mind. Being that we are near the end of this decade I believe the retrospectives can safely begin. I should like to propose that this decade be called the “supernaughts”, a term which should also please Black Sabbath fans.

 Posted by on 12/18/2009 Opinion

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