Thursday 01 April 2010

2010 In English, Please?

I am amused by the whimsical debate among language enthusiasts on how to properly pronounce the name of the year 2010 in English. Amid the many variants currently in use, two pronunciations seem to be most favored: two-thousand-ten and twenty-ten. Although this dilemma in pronunciation may merely boil down to a matter of style choice, it nonetheless attests to the flexibility of a living language that adapts to the needs and tastes of its users. On one hand, according to the Gregorian calendar system, given that each year is represented in succession by a sequence of increasing integer numbers in an arithmetic progression, the pronunciation for a year’s name ought to follow the same convention of that for a numeric figure. On the other hand, since a calendar year stands for more than just a number but as a symbol of human history, its pronunciation ought to befit the cultural context (such as Y2K for the year 2000) and give preference to brevity over sesquipedalianism. Linguists also argue that the phonetics of the English language favor speaking of the year with a name that conforms to an iambic rhythm. By contrast, in Chinese (my native language), each digit of the year is pronounced separately, so that no concatenation is used to give rise to this pronunciation corundum. Most ironically, it is likely that the calendar year in question would have long ended before the accompanying debate would ever be settled.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under World
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