ENGLISCH/711: Questions to Mrs. Gobbledygook (105) - How to say dates


105. How to say dates

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

Listening to native speakers of English I found that the English seem to say nineteen ninety-nine (1999) or fifteen eighty-three (1583) but since the beginning of this Millennium it is just two thousand (2000) or two thousand and six (2006). Is it going on like this in the coming year 2007 and how do you express historical dates that are written 1066 or 509?

Thank you
Wolfram Bergleitner (Munich, Germany)


Dear Mr Bergleitner

Thank you for your letter. Now, this is a very good question. In the case of historical data what we do say is: ten sixty-six (1066). And that is the date everyone in Britain knows because it's the date of the Norman conquest. The last time Britain was conquered when William the Conqueror came from Normandy. That was 1066.

But what about the next date 509. In that case we say either "fivehundred and nine" or "five-O-nine". And as we have just passed the end of the last Century and indeed the end of the last Millennium it is very interesting to note the way we started to talk about the current Century. Some years before the end of the Millennium the dates of "two thousand and something" were not mentioned so often in conversations and the way expressing them was therefore not completely clear. So at first we started the habit to talk about the date 2000 as "the year two thousand". Strangely enough we always put the words "the year" before that date. At least that was the way shortly before and in "the year 2000" itself. As the Century progresses we don't have to say "the year" anymore. For example, we ask "where will the Olympic Games be held in two thousand and eight (2008)?". And when we get even further into the Century for example to 2050 it seems that we only need to say "twenty fifty". Well, that's the way it looks at the moment. But if you are still around in 2050 - and I am pretty sure that I shan't be - you may like to notice then whether our predictions were right.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year,
enjoy the years and dates to come ...
Mrs. Gobbledygook

29. December 2006