Friday, 1 January 2010

2010

And a Happy New Year to you too.
The evidence is already all around us that NSs readily pronounce 2010 as twenty ten. This is a change, given that the year just ended was two thousand (and) nine (BrE with and, AmE I think without).
You can see that *twenty nine would not have been a possible way of saying 2009, since it would be heard as 29. But why not twenty oh nine or even twenty hundred (and) nine?
My father was born in 1909, which we call nineteen oh nine (at least, that’s what I call it). But my mother was born one year later, in nineteen ten.
On a related topic, let me record for posterity the following small linguistic change from the first half of the twentieth century. If you asked them the time and it was 11:25, my parents would both have said five-and-twenty past eleven. But like everyone else nowadays (I think), I have always said twenty-five past.
This was the only context in which they would use the old Germanic formula x-and-twenty, apart from in the nursery rhyme where we all do.
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye;
Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing;
Now wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before a king?

For the young, and even now the early-middle-aged, sixpence ˈsɪkspəns belongs to Britain’s pre-decimalization currency. From 1971 it became 2½p. Now, after the demise of the half-p, it is no longer expressible as a precise sum of money that you can handle.

30 comments:

  1. Two small remarks, actually off-topic - sorry.

    1. Do you sing, or have you heard, [ˈsɪkspəns] with a schwa in this song?

    2. I'm sometimes tempted to sing [beɪkɪd], and while the melody is to blame with its two notes, I think it's somewhat triggered by the old-style number right before that.

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  2. "Of the half-p"? Surely "of the halfpenny" or "of the ha'penny"...

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  3. Three comments

    1. For the last couple of days I've been telling anybody who'd listen

    a. my theory that it was widespread talk of 2001 A Space Odyssey that predisposed us long before the millennium to say two thousand and and not twenty-oh

    b. my prediction that we'd return to 'normal' and say twenty ten

    I remember Charlotte Green [Note for non-Brits: a mellifluous, precise and much admired BBC newsreader and announcer, the RP accent nobody objects to] starting a trend for twenty oh but nobody followed her.

    2. My parents also said five and twenty past/to. As a little by I copied them -- until approximately sixty years ago.

    3. The ha'penny was an entirely different object from a half-p -- quite apart from its different monetary value. It was withdrawn as a coin long before the decimal half-p. But, ironically, there must by many many more of them around, for use on shove-ha'penny boards.

    I don't think anybody ever called the half-p-coin a ha'penny. Indeed, some of us still refuse to use the term penny for decimal 1p.

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  4. Lipman: always -pəns in the nursery rhyme for me. Pre-decimalization, we never said ˈsɪkspens, only ˈsɪkspəns.
    Michael Everson: David Crosbie is right. ½p was never a ˈheɪpni. That was the old ½d only.

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  5. Never say never. Though I think it was only the ½p coin that was ever a ˈheɪpni. Whereas I think with 2p, 5p and 10p both the values and the coins were occasionally ˈtʌpəns, ˈfaivpəns and 'tɛnpəns even before the wording on them was changed from 'new pence' to 'two pence' etc. The Government encouraged the use of 'pence' (with no reduction to pəns etc) rather than 'new pence' from the start. I certainly don't think they encouraged pee, but of course language users have far more practical ideas than language planners. And the no pəns didn’t entirely stick either: the only value for which I don’t think I ever heard it was 11p, and that sort of makes sense.

    So David C, does this refusal to use penny mean you say pee? You can't be of the 'one pence' persuasion! And 'new penny' did not persist like New College or New World or even New Israel for obvious reasons.

    Michael E, you're Irish, aren’t you? And you and I appear to have had similar experiences of ha'pennies at least. So why do you object to the indisputably more usual half-p (presumably pron. half pee or half penny)?

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  6. "1. Do you sing, or have you heard, [ˈsɪkspəns] with a schwa in this song?"

    Where I grew up, not surprisingly, this is always [ˈsɪkspɛns]. I had to learn to say [ˈsɪkspəns] for UK dialect work. Personally, I'd have a hard time singing [pəns] because the note duration is equal to that of [ˈsɪks], and also because the stuff you learn as a little kid tends to stick. But I have heard it sung with [pəns], regardless of my idiosyncrasies.

    "2. I'm sometimes tempted to sing [beɪkɪd], and while the melody is to blame with its two notes"

    Huh? You must know not only a different melody from the one I learned, but also from the other melody I have just heard online. It's one note in both versions.

    (Until this thread, I had no idea there was a different melody from the one I grew up with, which you can hear here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNVitnZCZ7s. You learn something new every day ... )

    As for twenty-ten: I don't like it, but I'll have to get used to it, I suppose.

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  7. Yes, mallamb, I regularly say one pee. I have no great objection to one pence. I might even use it to contrast with two pence. For 2p to 99p I can say either pee or pence -- though never reduced to pəns. As far as I can remember, I used to say ... and a half pence, never ... and a half pee.

    Surely one new penny was lost as part of the package that lost two new pence.

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  8. For 1p I'm certainly happy with one pee and one pence. Why be pedantically different from everyone else?

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  9. Year names: we don't need to say the whole year number, do we. 1999 was not always called nineteen ninety-nine; it was often called ninety-nine. Oh-one to oh-nine made convenient, distinctive names for the years 2001-09. Admittedly, calling this year "ten" might cause trouble, what with the number 10 often being required in other circumstances than as a year number. Time will tell when we'll go back to referring to years in this short fashion: twenty or twenty-one, perhaps?

    I agree with David Crosbie on his points 1 and 2. He's not entirely right with his point 3, though. I said [ˈheipni] for the old 1/2 p coin, and in amounts, e.g. [ˌtʌpənsˈheipni].

    As for p v penny or pence, I might say either. Or I might say neither, especially for the pence element of a price that involves pounds, e.g. £1.50 is "one pound fifty". A 10p coin might be a "ten p piece" or a "ten pence piece". A 1p coin, though, pace Mr. Crosbie, is definitely a penny, not a "one p piece".

    As for "one pence", not /everyone/ else says it! I don't. It's just not in my grammar. Nor do I say one minutes, one metres, one pounds, one inches,........

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  10. Good for you, Richard.

    Of the ½d David Crosbie said...
    – there must by many many more of them around, for use on shove-ha'penny boards.

    There certainly were last time I was in a pub, but shove-ha'penny boards has a contextually determined alloseme of ha'penny, both by tradition and fully fixed convention, and only a posteriori because ½p coins are not exactly shovable (or shoveable – ridiculous language!)

    David Crosbie said...
    – I regularly say one pee.

    Even for the coin? As in "A one pee might do for shove-ha'penny"?

    David Crosbie said...
    – As far as I can remember, I used to say ... and a half pence, never ... and a half pee.

    Surely at least we can all agree on that.

    David Crosbie said...
    – Surely one new penny was lost as part of the package that lost two new pence.

    Did I not succeed in saying just that? Unlike New Coll etc.

    Richard Sabey said...
    – Time will tell when we'll go back to referring to years in this short fashion: twenty or twenty-one, perhaps?

    I don’t see how we can do that: it would mean 2020, 2021, or even 1920, 1921 etc.

    Richard Sabey said...
    – £1.50 is "one pound fifty". A 10p coin might be a "ten p piece" or a "ten pence piece". A 1p coin, though, pace Mr. Crosbie, is definitely a penny, not a "one p piece".

    I really can't see how anyone could disagree with any of that, except for the Crosbie faction, who "still refuse to use the term penny for decimal 1p." and agree that "new penny" is as dead as "franc lourd", and therefore must, I do believe, call it a "one p piece", or apparently at a stretch a "one penny piece" or even a "one pence piece

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  11. "one pence" - "well, it's worth two-and-a-half you know!"(heard from a ladies' lavatory attendant, 1971)

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  12. Graham, I guess you made a note of it if you can give the date. Most impressive, but my impression is likewise that the rot set in from the start. And the confusion. For did anyone ever say "two-and-a-half" for tuppence-ha'penny?

    Now I too am confused. I sort of think they did! Par for the course in this linguistic world, I think.

    Ctd from 20:31…
    JW always explains for younger contributors such obscurities as I belatedly realize "franc lourd" is. Sorry, but here goes:

    When the French franc was redominated to the value of 100 anciens francs, it was called the nouveau franc, and the term "franc lourd" was introduced for it.

    There was a protracted period of total chaos. You were allowed to use the old monopoly denomination provided you specified anciens francs, as people couldn’t get used to knocking off two noughts, in speech at any rate (I think they would have had less trouble if it had been redenominated to 1000 anciens francs, and de Gaulle could have stuck out his chest even more). All the notes had 10NF etc on them but that didn’t stop people calling them "billets de 1000F". Can anyone confirm my impression that it was the 10NF coin that finally got their heads round it?

    The last time I heard Portuguese they were still converting to escudos [ʃkudʃ] (can't do the w-colouring) from Euro (which they can't even pronounce in Pt, and neither can not a few Spaniards – Why not?? Their phonologies permit it!), like poor demented pre-Reichsmark Germans who said they had 3000000 children.

    If we can't cope with the relatively trivial problems caused by the "new penny", it's a very poor show!

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  13. David Crosbie said...
    – 1. For the last couple of days I've been telling anybody who'd listen

    a. my theory that it was widespread talk of 2001 A Space Odyssey that predisposed us long before the millennium to say two thousand and and not twenty-oh

    b. my prediction that we'd return to 'normal' and say twenty ten

    Well the question is WHY either Kubrick or his PR men (it's all over the internet, but it depends which account you believe) decreed two thousand and and not twenty-oh for 2001 A Space Odyssey. And I think the answer is another question: what sort of a title would twenty oh one or any other alternative have made?

    David Crystal argued (for the years not the film, which was getting it arsy-versy in my opinion) "Rhythm counts for everything in something like this. The closer you get to the traditional heartbeat of English rhythm, the more people subconsciously go for it."

    He waxed even more purple, but not more convincing: '"two thousand and five" beats "twenty oh five" hands down, because the former sounds like a train trundling gently over railway tracks while the alternative is "much more abrupt"'.

    But he went completely off the rails when he said 'the flow of "two thousand and ten" beats "twenty ten", but "two thousand and eleven" loses out to "twenty eleven"'.

    Anyway here's the proof that I've been saying both a and b since at least 06 Feb 2005:

    http://www.collins.co.uk/wordexchange/Forums/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1765
    http://www.collins.co.uk/wordexchange/Forums/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1765&PageIndex=2

    It was a riotous forum and I can promise you a few laughs if you read both those pages, but I have to give you both those links for gone is the romance that was so divine, 'tis broken and cannot be mended.

    David Crosbie said...
    – 2. My parents also said five and twenty past/to. As a little by I copied them -- until approximately sixty years ago.

    Snap!

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  14. If you are unmoved by my promise of hilarity, and disinclined to follow my links in the above to the debate re a proposed dictionary entry for noughties (it got in, of course, but how belatedly!), please at least look at the arguments from my first contribution to that debate:

    "The nineteen hundreds" has the merit that it is well established. Note that this decade was never called the hundreds, which according to the precedent it sets would be the last year of the first century and the first nine of the second (I shall try to ignore any challenge to this carefully-worded definition - the battle was lost with the so-called millennium celebrations, and the Times correspondence was declared closed by the editor). So the decade we are supposed to be talking about is not the hundreds. It is of course not the noughts either, as nobody says twenty nought one ff. But, unlike the nineteen hundreds, nobody says twenty hundred and one ff, so the twenty hundreds is indeed not the right term for it. This is also the problem with the "twenty tens" but only as yet. It may well become established, just like the nineteen tens. And this is clearly because while we talk quite happily of years of age as being in the "teens or twenties", we talk of most numbers as being "in the tens or twenties" . Such is the arbitrariness of the Sign.

    I can imagine "twenty tens" because you occasionally hear 20 oh 1 ff, which would lead you to expect twenty ten ff. But you never hear 20 nought 1 ff, and that has not prevented the noughties being adopted by analogy with all the other -ties, and may not even prevent the tenties this time round, bearing in mind that there were no noughties to analogize from last time round - the poor dears' brains were probably too full of spirochaetes after the naughty nineties to even think of naughty noughties.

    What actually seems to be happening is that, again in conformity with common parlance, vigesimality is asserting itself, and most people say two thousand and one ff, which was long established courtesy of Arthur C Clarke. So they say the two thousands and probably the two thousand and tens. We have also had binary and duodecimal analogues such as three halfpence but twopence halfpenny and eighteen pence but two and six. We have even had vigesimal vigesimality such as thirty bob and two pound ten, and we still have sprogs of eighteen and twenty months etc. but not of thirty or thirty-two etc.
    (Arthur C Clarke wrote the short story "The Sentinel" on which Kubrick's 1968 film was based.)

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  15. Paul Tench has a letter in today's Guardian (2 Jan):
    • No, no! You shouldn't count all the syllables (Letters, 18 & 23 December), just the stressed syllables – the beats that make up the rhythm of English speech. Twenty ten has two stresses/beats; two thousand and ten has three. That's why Vic Voss's argument (Letters, 29 December) about www does not work: world wide web has just as many stresses as double-u double-u double-u (and more complicated consonant clusters as well). Let's go for twenty ten – less stress!

    Dr Paul Tench
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/jan/02/blackwater-cliches-english-language-underwear

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  16. Well, I think this "twenty ten" business started in 1066 (and all that).

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  17. BTW

    Isn't "Sing a Song of Sixpence" just the strangest nursery rhyme? One can imagine a tabloid headline prompted by it:

    ROYAL SERVANT'S FACIAL MUTILATION AFTER BIZARRE CULINARY EXPERIMENT

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  18. @mallamb: "Well the question is WHY either Kubrick [...] decreed two thousand and and not twenty-oh for 2001 A Space Odyssey. "

    Ahem. For the record, in interviews Kubrick (American) said "Two Thousand One," Not "Two Thousand and One." It was Clarke (English) who said "Two Thousand and One."

    Certainly the original film and its sequel have influenced my pronunciation of 2010, in the oddest way. In my mind's ear, when I see 2010, I hear "twenty-ten," but when I open my mouth, what comes out is "two thousand-ten." I assume that muscle memory plays a part in this somehow.

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  19. FAT-CAT ROYALS BREACH HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES
    I'll sue, says laundry worker

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  20. always -pəns in the nursery rhyme for me. Pre-decimalization, we never said ˈsɪkspens, only ˈsɪkspəns.

    In regular speech, there's no question, but the tune has the -pence nearly as stressed and exactly as long as the six-, hence my question. (I sing i with a schwa as well.)

    mallamb, the French still calculate in francs, not euros, and in fact, prices in supermarkets &c are marked in both.

    Amy Stoller, the version you linked to sounds like a free variation on the one I'm familiar with. I found it here, but unfortunately it has only one note for baked. I know it with this note split in two halves and so with a scale from baked till pie, not a jump from the keynote (baked to the fifth (in-a-pie).

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  21. Hello, Amy. If by any chance you followed my links you will have seen how people engage with one another on some sites (esp when they are all no less barmy than me), so you will know how I appreciate your engagement. I will take your word for it on the interviews of course, for Kubrick would say that, wouldn't he, being American, and having the conventions of an American NS which JW supposes in his entry. But I guess you will concede that Clarke, who wrote the original short story, had some locus standi.

    But as you say, you see 2010, and since people have been seeing it more, it is their mind's eye, not their mind's ear, that tells them to hear "twenty ten". So where does this muscle memory of which you speak come from? I NEVER believed 2000 ten/and ten, and I think it is because synaesthesia is not such a terrible affliction!

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  22. John, you're almost Japanese in your improvement on a good idea!

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  23. Lipman said...
    – but the tune has the -pence nearly as stressed and exactly as long as the six-, hence my question. (I sing i with a schwa as well.)

    So you should, but why should the Americans? Or indeed anyone, since the words are not "6d".

    Lipman said...
    – the French still calculate in francs, not euros, and in fact, prices in supermarkets &c are marked in both.

    I'm appalled, but no more so than by the Portuguese, and I guess at least these are NF. So will they take as long as they took to knock off the two zeros of the anciens? Pls don't remind me how long it is since my traveling days have been over!

    Lipman said...
    – Amy Stoller, the version you linked to sounds like a free variation on the one I'm familiar with. I found it here, but unfortunately it has only one note for baked

    I do try not to comment on absolutely everything, but I do follow links, and that is a very free variation. So sophisticated in fact that it has pəns.

    Keep searching for your version. I did find the sheet music for it, with a semiquaver for bak and a dotted quaver for ed, which sort of vindicates you, but I can't undertake to retrace my steps. I especially should get out more, but the way things are at the moment I can't get beyond my study door. And my excesses on this threas have not been my only excesses in this more than usually brain-fogging season, Anyway I have always been happy singing bak on both notes.

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  24. OMG Amy, I have just been assailed by the awful suspicion that you linked to that version because the [pəns] was in deference to your own above-mentioned professional instructions!

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  25. My grandmother was born in aught-three, in the language of her generation (California).

    For myself, now that the novelty of The Year Two Thousand has worn off (and we don't have flying cars, or any of the other wonders we were promised), I think we're drifting right back to the old pattern...twenty-ten is alternating with two thousand ten for right now, but I think in a couple more years the thousands will be reserved for formal documents, as the hundreds were during the last century.

    Oh, and this American almost always pronounces (but almost never writes) the "and" in "two thousand and ten." They taught us in school not to pronounce it, but they also taught us not to say "ain't" or use double negatives. In my small town, that just meant that we thought the teachers were odd.

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  26. mallamb, I found only this one now: picture (from this book). I don't sing it syncopated there, though strangely, I find I do sing pocket thus.

    Interestingly, another digitised book from about the same time, IIRC, had the tune Amy Stoller referred to.

    I'll keep searching.

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  27. David Marjanović17 January 2010 at 01:56

    and I guess at least these are NF.

    They are.

    Zweitausendzehn. I wonder how long it will take till the "twenty" construction will arrive in German. Probably till 2101.

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  28. At least politicians have been talking about the "Agenda [zwanzig-zehn]" for seven years or so. Then again, it did sound like politicians, with a touch of would-be English, to some, just as this kind of formation alsways sounded referring to earlier centuries.
    Zwanzighundert-something is quite difficult to imagine.

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  29. David Marjanović17 January 2010 at 21:14

    "Agenda [zwanzig-zehn]"

    Absolutely, but I'm not sure how much connection to "2010" it actually has.

    Zip codes are pronounced this way (in Austria at least, where they still have only four digits – 1100 is even elfhundert).

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