How do you say “2010″?
Coming off of “two thousand nine,” you’ll probably say “two thousand ten.” In fact, 4 out of 5 YouTube videos randomly reviewed by The Chronicle have people pronouncing it that way.But you would be wrong, so wrong, according to the National Association of Good Grammar.
“NAGG has decided to step in and decree that (2010) should officially be pronounced ‘twenty ten,’ and all subsequent years should be pronounced as ‘twenty eleven,’ ‘twenty twelve,’ etc.,” proclaims the association’s news release.
The National Association of Good Grammar - essentially a guy named Tom Torriglia and some friends who also paid attention in English class - say people have been mispronouncing the year for 10 years.
“NAGG is here to put everybody back on the correct path,” Torriglia said by phone from his home in San Francisco. “We lost the battle when we went from 1999 to 2000 - but now we’re hoping to win the war.”
The “20″ should have been pronounced “twenty” all along, he said, pointing out that every year in the 20th century was pronounced “nineteen something.”
” ‘Twenty’ follows ‘nineteen.’ ‘Two thousand’ does not follow ‘nineteen.’ It’s logical.”
Fighting for grammarCompanies pay Torriglia, who has written technical manuals for two decades, to be logical and clear in explaining the least clear concepts, like how to use their own computer software. He’s also taught writing to aspiring technical writers and to junior college students.
Torriglia created NAGG in 1986 when he found himself calling publications about their grammatically incorrect ads.
“I would nag them,” he said.
Torriglia, who is writing a book he calls “The Grammar Police Never Sleep,” believes the time has come to nag again.
To punctuate the idea that “two thousand ten” is the wrong way to say it, Torriglia, 56, pointed out that no one would ever say, “I was born in one thousand nine hundred and fifty-three.”
Yet that’s how people keep saying “2010.” In one YouTube video, a preteen promises to make more YouTube videos in “two thousand ten.” Another has a guy on a yellow dirt bike saying he’s “amped about the all-new ‘two thousand ten’ ” model. A third features people trying to design novelty eyeglasses in the shape of “two thousand ten.”
To Torriglia, it’s relentless.
“I’m hearing it on TV commercials. I heard an announcer say it during ‘Monday Night Football.’ You cringe.”
Torriglia cringes, anyway. But he’s the kind of guy who cringes at the Safeway checkout line where the sign reads “10 items or less.”
“It should be fewer.”
Maybe notBut what choice did anyone really have this past decade? Were they going to start off the new millennium with a “twenty oh oh” hiccup, while avoiding the melodious “two thousand”?
There’s a reason Arthur C. Clarke didn’t call his book “Twenty Oh One: A Space Odyssey.”
It’s been a difficult decade for Torriglia, phonologically speaking.
“It was never ‘two thousand nine’ for me,” he sighed. “It was always ‘twenty aught nine.’ “
So the people hawking next year’s car models, the newscasters on TV and anyone else with a reason to say “2010″ aloud should embrace good grammar and say “twenty ten” right now, Torriglia said.
Not exactly, according to noted linguistics Professor George Lakoff of UC Berkeley.
“It’s not wrong to say ‘two thousand ten,’ ” Lakoff said. “And it’s not like ‘twenty ten’ is the right way.”
His explanation involves cognitive reference points, standards of speech and recognizing as anachronistic the notion that grammar can be right or wrong as people and cultures evolve.
Nevertheless, Lakoff predicted, ” ‘Twenty-ten’ is gonna take over. It’s shortest. It’s easiest to understand.”
On that point - if not on the syntax - the master linguist and the grammar police agree.
E-mail Nanette Asimov at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/01/MN621BB41U.DTL