What Do You Call the 2010s? A Linguistics Expert Weighs In
Naming a decade is harder than it seems, even for a linguistics professor.
Ah, the start of a new decade—it fills you with excitement, doesn't it? It's time to turn over a new leaf, no matter how the past 10 years went. But before getting all excited about the 2020s, it might be a good idea to figure out what exactly we should be calling the decade we just lived through: the 2010s. Yes, we've managed to go 10 years without clearly understanding how to refer to this period of time. Is it the "twenty tens"? What about "the teens"? Or is it, as BBC News suggested, "the teensies"? If you don't know what to call the 2010s, you're not alone.
The truth is, there is no definitive answer because not enough time has passed. "You never really know until something catches on," David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor in the U.K., told The Mirror in 2010. "'The teens' and 'the teenies' have been suggested, but the problem is that those words have become associated with teenagers in the last 50 years and so there is pressure against using the same word."
He added that "'tennies' is a possibility because it has not been used before" and that "'the tenties' have also been suggested but that just goes against the pattern of the decades because the 'ties' ending doesn't start until 2020."
Unfortunately, Crystal noted, it'll be years before a name is chosen.
Historically, we've taken the rather straightforward route of referring to decades as groups: the '40s, the '50s, and so forth. The earliest example of this was in an 1853 issue of Littell's Living Age, a New York-based magazine. The magazine noted that men born in "the seventies" of the previous century were dying at the fastest rates, while death notices for men born in "the sixties" were more scarce.
People have also associated decades with defining cultural moments, as is the case with the so-called "Roaring Twenties." The 1890s, for instance, are sometimes called the "Gay Nineties," since it was when Oscar Wilde rose to prominence with his witty plays and when society scandals dominated headlines.
However, these nicknames tend to only come about after a significant amount of time has passed. If a cultural phenomenon does end up defining the 2010s, you'll probably have to wait awhile to find out which one it is and the name it inspires.
After all, the 2000s has yet to inspire a definitive name, too. "Noughties" was the term favored in the U.K., while The New Yorker chose to go with "aughties." There were also other options that floated around, but they never stuck—like "the twenty hundreds," "the double Os," and "the nillies."
Though there are mere days left in this decade, the fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the 2010s are going to be called. It could be "the teens," "the twenty tens," "the teensies," or something else entirely. But, "my prediction would be 'the tens,'" Crystal told The Mirror. "In history, people have always gone for the most obvious, easiest, and shortest word." And there you have it!
If you miss the noughties (or auguties, whatever you choose to call the 2000s), check out these 20 Things Every "Cool Kid" Growing Up in the 2000s Owned.