Your Letters: 2010 And The New Decade

Guest host Mary Louise Kelly reads listener letters, and offers an explaination about referring to 2010 as the start of a new decade.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Time now for your letters.

Last week, we rang in the New Year with a series of interviews looking ahead to the next decade in technology, medicine and fashion. But many of you wrote in to say that 2010 is not the start of a new decade. So we asked NPR librarian Kee Malesky. She explains it this way.

KEE MALESKY: This same outrage came up in 1999, 2000. When did the century begin? Our current calendar system was instituted retroactively and, of course, there was no Year Zero. Therefore, some people think all centuries and all decades must begin with the year one, so the century would be 1901 to 2001, and this decade would be 2011 to 2020. However, a century can actually be any hundred-year period, and a decade any period of 10 years. So this decade can start in 2010 and end in 2019.

KELLY: So, there you have it.

Last week, we also heard from Daniel Menaker, author of "A Good Talk," about the art of holding a good conversation. And Skip Lombardi of Sarasota, Florida, posted a comment on our Web site. He writes: Let's not forget the art of conversation through correspondence. Letter writing, whether on paper or in email, might be even more endangered than oral conversation. Having recently received a handwritten thank you note after a dinner party, I was surprised, delighted, and struck by just how rare a thing that is. Like the ritual of afternoon tea, there's something comforting and antiquated about letter writing simply for the sake of expressing pleasure in an exchange of words.

Last Saturday, guest host Ari Shapiro talked with musician Stace England about the life and work of legendary black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. After the interview aired, we received letters about the proper way to pronounce Micheaux's name.

Mr. England wrote us and he says: I often hear Oscar Micheaux's name pronounced up to four ways. In a 1981 documentary that included interviews with actors Bee Freeman and Lorenzo Tucker, both pronounced the name Meeshaw(ph) sometimes, but more often Mishaw(ph). Since this footage is quite rare and about all we have from people who knew him, I personally take my cues from it and say Mishaw.

Well, pronunciation issues aside, a number of you wrote to say you enjoyed the segment. It was among the most recommended interviews on NPR.org.

Bill Neiman of Wheaton, Illinois, writes, I'd never heard before of Micheaux, nor of Stace England and the Salt Kings. I enjoyed both the story of Micheaux and the music of the band telling his story.

(Soundbite of music)

KELLY: Well, we want to hear from you. You can email us by going to NPR.org and clicking on the link that says Contact Us. Or you can post your thoughts in the comments section of each story. We're also available on Facebook and Twitter, at Facebook.com/nprweekend and Twitter.com/nprweekend.

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