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When Does The New Decade Begin? That's Debatable


Here at MORNING EDITION, we have been recognizing the end of a decade by asking actors, authors, musicians and others about their favorites from the 2010s.

IGGY POP: Hello. This is Iggy Pop. I want to choose "Sweet Leaf Of The North" by Mik Artistik's Ego Trip.

GREENE: And then there was this pick from the chef Samin Nosrat.

SAMIN NOSRAT: For me, one of the most powerful pieces of art that I've consumed is the novel "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

GREENE: OK. But there has been some doubt about whether this actually is the end of the decade, including doubts from you, our listeners. And so Rachel Martin spoke to Sandi Duncan, the managing editor of the "Farmers' Almanac." She asked Sandi if this is the end of the decade.


Is it?


MARTIN: I mean, it feels like a big deal, 2019 to 2020. Why is there such a debate about whether or not this is the end of the decade?

SANDI DUNCAN: You know, it's really interesting. But I hate to tell you it's not.

MARTIN: It's not?

DUNCAN: Actually, no. We ran a story several years ago. In fact, you know, remember the big celebration in 1999. People thought that the new millennial was going to start the next year. But really, a decade begins actually with the year ending in the numeral one. There was never a year zero. So when we started counting time way back when, it goes one through 10. So a decade is 10 years. So in actuality, the next decade won't start until January 1, 2021.

MARTIN: So does it drive you crazy? I mean, I feel like I hear these stories at the end of every, you know, nine year - a year that ends with a nine, that, oh, we're at the end of the decade, and so let's do these big retrospectives. Are you just like screaming into the wind when you hear that?

DUNCAN: (Laughter) Well, it is. You know, it's one of those things where it's numbers. And it kind of gets confusing. I mean, kind of like when you count, you know, how old is your child before the age of 1? You kind of count those months. But then really, what is the end of the decade is after he turns 10 or she turns 10. So here at the "Farmers' Almanac," we really tried to be a little more astronomically orientated. And it's kind of confusing and definitely is worth a conversation. But it's kind of fun to look back and celebrate, you know, 2020 no matter what, if you're counting as a new decade or not.

MARTIN: It's funny. Is there something about it just being like, you know, just making that flip? It's not just one placeholder that changes in the numbers, it's two. And that feels significant to us. But you're telling me that it's just meaningless (laughter).

DUNCAN: Well, it's not meaningless. I mean, 2020 is going to be an interesting year. It's 20 years since 2000, when everybody was afraid that the world was going to end and all the computers were going to stop working.

MARTIN: Right. So we survived.

DUNCAN: But yeah, it's - there's one more year to celebrate this decade.

MARTIN: I mean, when we talk about decades, when we think about, oh, what it was like in the '60s, what it was like in the '70s, I mean, when we say the '70s, culturally we think of the year 1970 through 1979.

DUNCAN: Yeah. I mean, it's one of those confusing things. I mean, when the - "Almanacs" celebrated our 200th anniversary, we started printing in 1818, and yet the 2017 was our 200th edition. It's one of these mathematical conundrums that people can argue about until they're blue in the face. And it's, you know, even more confusing when you look at the 2000s. I mean, what do you call the decades of the '20s? I guess it's the '20s, but is that the 1920s or the 2020s? So it's one of those fun things that you can argue about until next - the new decade, which starts on January 1, 2021.

MARTIN: All right. The party keeps going. Sandi Duncan, managing editor at the "Farmers' Almanac." Sandi, thanks so much.

DUNCAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.