We have joined the millennium enlightened

"Welcome to the Bainbridge Review, first edition of the 21st Century, Third Millennium.Or do we still have one more year of the 20th Century, Second Millennium?We finally understand, at least we think so.Here we were, all set to observe the dawn of a new era, and it turns out that like most everyone else, we’re a year ahead of ourselves. Heck, it’s not even the turn of the century yet."

  • Sunday, January 2, 2000 1:00pm
  • News

“Welcome to the Bainbridge Review, first edition of the 21st Century, Third Millennium.Or do we still have one more year of the 20th Century, Second Millennium?We finally understand, at least we think so.Here we were, all set to observe the dawn of a new era, and it turns out that like most everyone else, we’re a year ahead of ourselves. Heck, it’s not even the turn of the century yet.For some, we have noticed, this is a very serious matter. A few months back, several readers went out of their way to bludgeon us when we suggested that our Y2K preparedness column would run “through the end of the millennium.” Even one of our own best friends gets furious at public enthusiasm for the year 2000 as the start of the new age. “Chalk one up for ‘ignorance is cool,’” he railed at us recently.Ignorance? Well, we’d just never given it a lot of thought, actually. So in the cause of knowledge, we finally fired up the iMac, hit the Net and did a little research. Having perused numerous treatises on the subject, we now understand that for a variety of historical reasons, the Gregorian calendar we use included no Year Zero – not least because the very concept of zero had yet to dawn on Europeans when the calendar was adopted in the sixth century. So while there was a year 1900, and 1800, and so on counting all the way back to 100, when you look for the year between 1 A.D. and 1 B.C., you find…ahem…nothing. The calendar starts with Year One. So, we concede that the 20th century still has a year to go, as does the current millennium.But surely the pedants amongst us can acknowledge how counterintiutive it is, this “millennium starts with 2001” thing. We attribute the confusion to social convention, and living in a base-10 numerical system. In assigning calendrical significance, in tracking the milestones of our lives, we naturally gravitate toward numbers ending in zeros – a 10th year in business, a 50th anniversary of marriage. The actual date almost takes a back seat to the feat of reaching the year.And our decades, at least, are quite at odds with the centuries and millennia around them. Our American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, Third Edition, to which we defer on pretty much all matters of import) notes that the Roaring ‘20s comprised the years 1920-29 – not 1921-30. We certainly didn’t wait until 1991 to consider ourselves in “the ‘90s.” Forgive us if we’ve been looking at our 20th Century the same way.Strictly speaking, /a/ new millennium does begin today, even if it’s not /the/ millennium. It all depends on which 1,000-year period you’re looking at. Our answer to critics has been that you just don’t know which millennium everyone else has been talking about – they mean the one that started a year earlier.But no more. We are now converted, purified, cleansed, enlightened. We are also relieved, as we still have time to put together a “special millennial edition” of the Review. Despite a good 1,000 years’ warning, we didn’t get started on ours until mid-December, and by then it was too late. Turns out we still have a year to work on it. Whew!”

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