When Does a New Decade Actually Begin?

Boonyachoat/iStock via Getty Images
Boonyachoat/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been at all present on the internet and social media in particular during the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed people arguing about when the new decade actually begins: January 1, 2020 or January 1, 2021.

Culturally, most people agree that decades begin on years ending with zero and end on years ending with nine. The ’70s ran from 1970 to 1979, the ’80s went from 1980 to 1989, and so on. But a swell of people says that way of thinking is incorrect. Because there was no year 0, they argue, it’s more accurate to say that decades begin on years ending with one and end on years ending with zero.

That argument is based on the Gregorian calendar, which is oriented around the birth of Jesus Christ. In the 6th century, an abbot named Dionysius Exiguus attempted to calculate the year Jesus was born. We now know that his calculation was incorrect, but it became the basis for both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars. According to TimeandDate.com, Dionysius labeled the year of Jesus’s birth with the Roman numeral for one (I). About 200 years later, a monk known as St. Bede the Venerable completed five books of history that calculated the years before Christ’s birth. But Bede recorded the latest year before Jesus’s birth as 1 B.C., leaving no space for a year 0. In fact, the concept of zero didn’t even reach Europe until at least the 12th century.

So technically, it’s only been 2019 years since the year Dionysius determined was 1 A.D.—not 2020. That’s led some organizations, like the Farmers' Almanac and the United States Naval Observatory, to favor a decade that begins in 2021 and ends in 2030.

That’s not the whole story, though. Andrew Novick, an electrical engineer who works for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, told NPR that it’s mainly a semantic issue.

“The definition of a decade really is just 10 years,” he said. So 2020 to 2029 works just as well as 2021 to 2030. But because many people tend to discuss decades in terms of culture, it gets confusing when you decide that the year 1990 was technically in the same decade as the ’80s, Novick said. “I would say however somebody wants to define something in language is up to them,” he told NPR. “But they might have to clarify how they’re defining it so that people know what they’re saying.”

TimeandDate.com points out that this specific issue only exists with the widely used Gregorian calendar, and that other calendars—like the Jewish calendar and the Islamic calendar—use completely different numbers for years.

“It’s a man-made system,” Konstantin Bikos, the lead editor of TimeandDate.com, told CNN. “It matters in terms of categorizing time spans and talking about time spans. But the 203rd decade is, in astronomical terms, no different than the decade before or after.”

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This Course Will Teach You How to Play Guitar Like a Pro for $29

BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Be honest: You’ve watched a YouTube video or two in an attempt to learn how to play a song on the guitar. Whether it was through tabs or simply copying whatever you saw on the screen, the fun always ends when friends start throwing out requests for songs you have no idea how to play. So how about you actually learn how to play guitar for real this time?

It’s now possible to learn guitar from home with the Ultimate Beginner to Expert Guitar Lessons Bundle, which is currently on sale for $29. Grab that Gibson, Fender, or whatever you have handy, and learn to strum rhythms from scratch.

The strumming course will teach you how to count beats and rests to turn your hands and fingers into the perfect accompaniment for your own voice or other musicians. Then, you can take things a step further and learn advanced jamming and soloing to riff anytime, anywhere. This course will teach you to improvise across various chords and progressions so you can jump into any jam with something original. You’ll also have the chance to dive deep into the major guitar genres of bluegrass, blues, and jazz. Lessons in jam etiquette, genre history, and how to read music will separate you from a novice player.

This bundle also includes courses in ear training so you can properly identify any relative note, interval, or pitch. That way, you can play along with any song when it comes on, or even understand how to modify it into the key you’d prefer. And when the time comes to perform, be prepared with skilled hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, trills, vibrato, and fret-tapping. Not only will you learn the basic foundations of guitar, you’ll ultimately be able to develop your own style with the help of these lessons.

The Ultimate Beginner to Expert Guitar Lessons Bundle is discounted for a limited time. Act on this $29 offer now to work on those fingertip calluses and play like a pro.

 

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Why Are Common Graves Called Potter’s Fields?

Graves in potter's fields are sometimes marked with blank headstones or crosses.
Graves in potter's fields are sometimes marked with blank headstones or crosses.
vyasphoto/iStock via Getty Images

For centuries, regions around the world have maintained common graves called potter’s fields, where they bury unidentified victims and impoverished citizens who couldn’t afford their own cemetery plots. The term potter’s field has been around for just as long.

The earliest known reference to a potter’s field is from the Gospel of Matthew, which historians believe was written sometime during the 1st century. In it, a remorseful Judas gives the 30 silver coins he was paid for betraying Jesus back to the high priests, who use it to purchase a “potter’s field” where they can bury foreigners. It’s been speculated that the priests chose land from a potter either because it had already been stripped of clay and couldn’t be used for farming, or because its existing holes and ditches made it a particularly good place for graves. But Matthew doesn’t go into detail, and as the Grammarphobia Blog points out, there’s no evidence to prove that the original potter’s field was ever actually used for its clay resources—it could’ve just been a parcel of land owned by a potter.

Whatever the case, the term eventually caught on as English-language versions of the Bible made their way across the globe. In 1382, John Wycliffe translated it from Latin to Middle English, using the phrase “a feeld of a potter,” and William Tyndale’s 1526 Greek-to-English translation of the passage featured “a potters felde,” which was altered slightly to “potters field” in King James’s 1611 edition.

Around the same time, a new definition of potter was gaining popularity that had nothing to do with pottery—in the 16th century, people began using the word as a synonym for tramp or vagrant. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was first written in a 1525 Robin Hood tale, and William Wordsworth mentioned it in his 1798 poem “The Female Vagrant.” It’s likely that this sense of the word helped reinforce the idea that a potter’s field was intended for the graves of the unknown.

It’s also definitely not the only phrase we’ve borrowed from the Bible. From at your wit’s end to a fly in the ointment, here are 18 everyday expressions with holy origins.

[h/t Grammarphobia Blog]