Victor V. Gurbo published an article listing the most important Bob Dylan songs by five-year intervals earlier this week. In the post, he noted that he wrote the idea at my suggestion. Victor’s very interesting end-product differed from my suggestion in two respects. Firstly, he chose Dylan songs by five-year intervals instead of ten. I thought that he could choose from ten-year intervals, but Victor determined that Mr. Dylan’s musical corpus was too voluminous for that scheme to work – except during the 1990s, apparently. Second, I had suggested to Victor that he choose songs from proper decades, that is, 1-to-0 decades instead of 0-to-9 decades.
Victor scoffed and rejected my wonderful suggestion, beginning his list with 1960 instead of 1961. Or, more likely, he did not notice my suggestion and instead used the more common 0-to-9 decades (furthermore, he also ended decades with 0, so he used a 0-to-0 eleven-year scheme if we look at in a certain way).
Below, I make my case for 1-to-0 decades. (Note: I borrowed the 0-to-9 and 1-to-0 names from the Wikipedia article for “Decade”)
0-to-9 vs 1-to-0 Decades
The end of 2019 saw the publication of many “best of the decade” lists. Different outlets ranked things such as the best athletes, best movies, or best music of the 2010s. To be sure, the majority appear to abide by the 0-to-9 decade. YouGov conducted a poll in December 2019 wherein 64% of respondents opined that the new decade would commence on January 1, 2020, and terminate on December 31, 2029. I, however, stand with the 17% who took the position that 2019 was the penultimate year of the last decade, and that our next decade begins on January 1, 2021. (If you are among the 19% who had no opinion, let this article persuade you.)
The reason for this is simple enough. There is no “year 0” on our calendar. 1 B.C. segued into 1 A.D. The last decade before the birth of Christ commenced on January 1, 10 B.C., and ended on December 31, 1 B.C. The proverbial calendar then turned to January 1, 1 A.D., and the next decade is best thought of as beginning on January 1, 11 A.D. The 0-to-9 system would have left the Romans of 10 A.D. in a perplexing place for their best-of-the-decade lists (if they were numbering the years like we do now and had any lists, that is).
I understand why people find the more common 0-to-9 decade scheme neater. One can readily talk about the “roaring 20s” or the “tumultuous 60s,” thus referring to decades where each year ends with a number in the 20s or 60s, respectively. However, in light of the fact that there was no year 0, the 1-to-0 decade system is more true to our calendar and more aesthetic. We should respect the calendar and the events that brought it to us today.
Not Being Technical About the Word “Decade”
My argument for the 1-to-0 decade system is based on how the years on our calendar are numbered. The neatest and most sensible way to view decades, in light of there being no “year 0,” is the 1-to-0 system. My conclusion has nothing to do with the definition of the word “decade” itself, however. For example, Webster’s 1913 made clear that the word “decade” means:
A group or division of 10; [especially], a period of ten years; a decennium; as, a decade of years or days; a decade of soldiers; the second decade of Livy.Webster’s 1913 definition of “decade“
Thus, the word “decade” not only refers to any 10-year time period (not uncommon usage), but also to any grouping of 10 at all (relatively uncommon usage). Valentinian III, who I discussed in an earlier article, reigned over the Western Roman Empire from October 23, 425 – March 16, 455. If I were to write that “Valentinian III reigned over the Western Roman Empire for almost three decades,” almost everyone would understand that as my saying that he was emperor just short of 30 years.
Good News for The New Leaf Journal at the End of This Fine Decade
We were unable to publish any “best of the decade” lists here at The New Leaf Journal in 2019 because the site did not go live until April 27, 2020. For the reasons I stated above, however, I would not have done so even if we were already live in December 2019. Since our current decade – best conceived – ends in a few short weeks, you can expect a couple of pieces of decade-in-review content here at The New Leaf Journal as we close in on the end of what has been an interesting 2011-2020 and a particularly interesting 2020. Most may say that we launched The New Leaf Journal too late, but I say that we launched it just in time.