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Persistence of the Irrational in Everyday Speech

In an earlier post (“Superfluous Syndeton,” June 2, 2009), I called attention to the use in current British English of the word and before the last numeral in the designation of the year of the twenty-first century; thus “two thousand and thirteen” instead of the expected “two thousand thirteen.” This insertion of the conjunction is utterly senseless and is not to be observed in designating earlier centuries.

That this usage has inexplicably penetrated American English was demonstrated this morning in the otherwise admirable diction of the NPR correspondent Wade Goodwyn (“Morning Edition”), who pronounced the dates 2008 and 2010 with the offending and before eight and ten.

Ratio tacet.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

One Response to “Persistence of the Irrational in Everyday Speech”

  • Michael Lamb says:

    I see you don’t like it when the penetration goes the other way! In Britland this usage IS to be observed in designating earlier centuries. In fact it’s universal if I may speak for the past seventy-odd years. But it’s always been observable where dates of publication etc are spelt out in full, as nineteen hundred and one (but 1901 is nineteen oh one), nineteen hundred and eleven (but 1911 is nineteen eleven), or things like

    Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
    In fourteen hundred and ninety-two (1492)
    The Spanish Armada met its fate,
    In fifteen hundred and eighty-eight. (1588)
    In sixteen hundred and sixty-six (1666)
    London burnt like rotten sticks.

    And of course WB Yeats’s “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”.
    And “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” (sometimes also spelled “1985”) is a song by Paul McCartney and Wings.

    I have never had the ‘and’, and c’mon, you haven’t been hearing it anything like as much as I have been not hearing it! It seems this American usage is one that BrE seems unusually resistant to, but I suppose the rot set in for you the moment the film 2001 hit the streets. It was a Brit-Am production, but the dead hand of Arthur C?Clarke’s BrE was all over it. On Forvo there are three speakers pronouncing it, one Am and two Br (one of them me). Sure enough the Am has no ‘and’ and the others have it.

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