Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy Last Year of the Decade

Happy New Year everyone.

There seems to be a controversy every ten years about when a new decade starts. Thankfully, I will not live to experience this debate on steroids when the next century comes around.

I’m a numbers guy and have admitted on an earlier blog to missing the old odometers that gradually rolled over to a new thousand, or ten thousand, or one hundred thousand, the nines slowly being pulled around the circle and replaced by zeros. I’ve damned near crashed a car trying too hard to catch the exact moment when a newer car with a digital odometer changed from 49999 to 50000.

And later this year I will celebrate (well, I hope I will, there are no guarantees) completing my seventh decade when I turn 70.

All these social cues lead us to believe that calendar decades also end on nines, meaning the new decade starts with a zero as the last number. The social cues are leading us astray.

My odometer and my age both started life at zero, and so, the order of ten is 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9.

When Pope Gregory instituted the Gregorian Calendar, parent to our “Common Era” calendar, it did not start at zero, it started at 1. The Pope skipped zero! Similarly, if we are referring to years before the Common Era, we start counting at minus one! The order of years when we are dealing with the first decade of the Common Era calendar is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

Quod erat demonstradum: our current calendar decade still has one year to go before it’s over. Which doesn’t mean this year isn’t starting a new decade—it is, as does every new year, as does every new day. It’s just a matter of focusing on the future ten years starting now.

So, when someone tells you, “Welcome to the new decade,” feel free to respond in kind (and unlike me, keep to yourself that it isn’t really THE new decade).

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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. False Bottom, the sixth novel in the series—this one set in the Boston area—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at

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