How Do You Say 2010?

In 45 days, there will be a mob at Times Square counting down. But what do we call the year that kicks in when the ball comes down? The four digits — 2,0,1,0 — are not in dispute, but how we say them evidently is.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In 45 days, there will be a mob at Times Square counting down.

Unidentified People: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

(Soundbite of applause)

SIEGEL: And then what? What do we call the year that kicks in when the ball comes down? The four digits, 2-0-1-0, are not in dispute, but how we say them evidently is. Is it two-thousand ten or twenty-ten? We've checked our own airwaves, and we find them to be, as you might expect, impeccably balanced.

Unidentified Woman #1: Automakers are rolling out their two-thousand ten lineup.

Unidentified Woman #2: They actually have come out with the twenty-ten Chevrolet Equinox.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Speaker of the House; Democrat, California): Will avoid falling into the donut hole in two-thousand and ten.

Unidentified Man #1: I wasn't going to run for anything in twenty-ten.

SIEGEL: Well, either impeccably balanced or perfectly evasive, we called a few people who, in the course of their work, are looking ahead to next year to find out what they're saying. For example, there is an election next year in Iowa, where Michael Mauro is secretary of state.

Secretary MICHAEL MAURO (Iowa Department of State): We're always thinking about next year, when it's an election year and you're in charge of the election.

SIEGEL: So what are you going to call next year?

Sec. MAURO: I think we're going to call it twenty-ten.

SIEGEL: What do you call this year?

Sec. MAURO: I call this year two-thousand and nine. Next year, common-sense-wise, it's going to start going twenty-ten, twenty-eleven. There was a song clear back in the late '60s, and it was called "In the Year 2525."

SIEGEL: I'd hate to think that that song is driving policy in the state.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sec. MAURO: I don't think it does.

(Soundbite of song, "In the Year 2525")

ZAGER AND EVANS (Musical Duo): (Singing) In the year 2525, if man is still alive

SIEGEL: Despite that invocation of common sense, we are frankly stumped as to what this song has to do with what to call next year, but it isn't the only appeal to popular culture that we heard.

Mr. JIM BURK(ph) (General Manager, The Daily Planner): My name is Jim Burk. I'm the general manager of a mail order company called The Daily Planner. We sell tens of thousands of calendars every year.

SIEGEL: So you must have to pronounce the name of next year pretty often in the course of your work.

Mr. BURK: A zillion times a day, it feels like.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: So what do you say?

Mr. BURK: We say two-thousand ten.

SIEGEL: Why? Why not twenty-ten?

Mr. BURK: Because probably of the movie "2001," people just got used to saying that over and over again. So when they move to each year, they're just saying 2002, 2003 all the way through.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Bob Condron has to say next year's name. He's with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and they have winter games next year.

Mr. BOB CONDRON (Spokesman, United States Olympic Committee): There are games in Vancouver, in Whistler, starting February 12th.

SIEGEL: February 12th

Mr. CONDRON: Twenty-ten.

SIEGEL: Twenty-ten.

Mr. CONDRON: February 12th, 2010. It's going to be twenty-twelve, twenty-fourteen, twenty-sixteen, twenty-eighteen and then on into perpetuity.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: To the year that we'll all be talking about, twenty-twenty.

Mr. CONDRON: Twenty-twenty. (Unintelligible) yeah, optometrist Olympics.

SIEGEL: Well, Jimm Lasser says twenty-ten just isn't the proper name of a year; it's a nickname. It's kid-talk. He's the art director of Wieden and Kennedy, an ad agency in Portland, Oregon. Lasser says grownups should say two-thousand ten.

Mr. JIMM LASSER (Art Director, Wieden and Kennedy): I think grownups naturally have more respect for time. I mean, grownup people are always on time. They wear watches and they have, you know, calendars on their wall. They always have a good - they have a good idea of what time is and how important it is to be on time. So naturally, I think they would show two-thousand and ten the respect it deserves.

SIEGEL: Sort of like calling a year mister or madam, but Jimm Lasser does offer this grammatical compromise.

Mr.�LASSER: I think when you put the year, when it's describing something, like the nineteen-eighty-five Bears, the fiercest team ever, if you're when the year is describing a noun, I think you can go into the truncated version. So if you said the twenty-ten Nike super shoe, like that's fine, but when you talk about the year on itself, like a noun, like a proper noun, like a person, like a citizen, it would be two-thousand and ten.

SIEGEL: As in the great twenty-ten controversy. What shall we call the year two-thousand ten?

(Soundbite of music)

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And which do you prefer? You can vote at NPR's news blog, the Two-way. Just go to npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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