Sunday, September 28, 2008

i first thought of this post back in the year four

One of the side effects of reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels is that you begin to think in the language of those books. For those not familiar with these twenty wildly entertaining volumes, the setting is the British navy in the Napoleonic era (1790s-1815), and the series served as source material for the first good Peter Weir movie since Witness.

When I first discovered the Aubrey-Maturin books, I was completely hooked, and was consuming two to four of them a week. At this level of immersion, the words would just start occurring in my brain naturally. For example, I'd be driving through the parking building adjacent to my then-workplace, and I'd think "I'd better steer to starboard to weather that pole." Or someone at work would be going on about the Sting luxury box tickets they lucked into that weekend, and I'd think - and sometimes actually say, depending on whether I thought I could get away with it - "I give you joy of that." (For some reason, I think Dave Foley would be proud of that.) Or instead of saying to a pal, "This round's on me," it might come out "A glass with you, sir."

I doubt any of these expressions will make a comeback outside of fans of these books. But there was one turn of phrase that struck me like it would be very applicable to the world of today. When the events of the books moved into the 1810s, the characters began saying things like, "A glass with you, sir, as we drink to Nelson's glorious victory in the Year Five."

It took me just a second, but I realized "the Year Five" (and by extension, "Year Six," "Year Seven," etc.) was how the characters were referring to the events of the previous (180x) decade. And I like it! And I think that's how we ought to be referring to the 2000s.

I don't think society has come up with an easy, elegant way to say the years of the current decade. So far, we're just saying the whole darn year, and who wants to say "Two thousand and two"? Heck, half the time, I find myself wanting to say "Nineteen ninety two" because I haven't wrapped my head around it being the 2000s yet, plus "Nineteen" part was just so ingrained in us growing up (after all, we had a whole century of it).

So I'm stumping for doing it the Aubrey-Maturin way. After you read this post, you'll look back fondly on the Year Eight, when you finally lit on the best way to talk about this Decade That Is Apparently Going To Be Named Later.

And yes, "Later" is a funny name for a decade.

3 comments:

2fs said...

And "The Decade to Be Named Later" sounds like one of those players tossed in afterwards in a trade...

Miles said...

Well, exactly! You can't follow baseball as long as I have without it reshaping your brain.

I always like to say Nashville traded Peter Frampton to Cincinnati for Adrian Belew. And I'm glad we did.

B said...

It always takes me a long time to get back to my normal mode of thinking after I read -- I seem to really absorb an author's language and find ways to organize my own thoughts in that manner. It's been that way as long as I can remember!