Why It's So Hard to Name the '00s

Naming the 2000s

Illustration: Julie Teninbaum for TIME; Photo: Reuters / Corbis

Revelers ring in 2000 in Times Sq.

Waxing nostalgic about this decade is going to be tough. And not just because there's plenty--from 9/11 to the financial apocalypse--we'd rather forget. No, the trouble is that when we tell our grandkids about the first decade of the 21st century, we may not know what to call it.

This gap in the English language shouldn't come as a surprise; the debate over what to name the first decade of this century has been going on since the middle decades of the last one. The 1900s never got a name beyond vague constructions like the turn of the century. One popular...

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