Sunday, May 10, 2015

The New Century

I wondered about this as a kid, and then again when the century changed: how long would it take before it really felt like a new century? How long, in other words, before it stopped sounding tongue-in-cheek to refer to "the previous century"?

I think the answer is: right around now. Fifteen years.

Perhaps it's because a critical mass (i.e. everyone under 18, if you add 3 years for the haze of early childhood) has little or no memory of the last century.

Or perhaps it's because we've had time to recover from the weird "aughts" decade, when it was hard to speak the year without sounding awkward.

Or perhaps it's that we've grown tired of making smirking reference to "the last century" - sort of like how new parents and new presidents find their new roles a bit ironic until they get into the thick of it, and the irony itself feels passé. In other words, it's not that we've become accustomed to being in a new century, it's that we've grown tired of acknowledging its novelty.

Next question: when will it seem exotic to say you remember the twentieth century? If my first guess - that a critical mass has matured to a benchmark age - was correct, then I'd guess it'll be 2062, when all who remember the century are above retirement age (or the age where they start taking rejuvenation pills or whatever).

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