2249: I Love the 20s

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I Love the 20s
Billboard's "Best of the 80s" chart includes Blondie's 1980 hit "Call Me." QED.
Title text: Billboard's "Best of the 80s" chart includes Blondie's 1980 hit "Call Me." QED.


This comic was released on the first day of the year 2020. It was the second of two New Year comics around the 2019-2020 New Year, after 2248: New Year's Eve.

The comic opens with Megan, Cueball, White Hat, and Ponytail celebrating the new year and discussing their relief that the change of decade brings with it two beneficial side effects; firstly, they can now unambiguously name the decade "the 20s", and secondly, since the decade has a well-defined name, any cultural trends that begin in the 20s can be attributed to the decade itself, and not to the generation that happens to coincide with it.

White Hat, however, tries a couple of times to raise a pedantic objection: he believes that the new decade does not "officially" start until 2021.

Ponytail corrects him on this, but he refuses to accept the correction until Megan cites an unlikely source: the fact that the VH1 television show I Love the '90s categorized MC Hammer's 1990 single "U Can't Touch This" as a 90s song, which supports Ponytail's definition of a decade. The joke is that a pop culture documentary is not an authoritative source for definitions of time standards,[citation needed] yet for some reason, everyone is willing to accept its authority on such matters anyway.

The disagreement over the definition of when decades start is due to the fact that there is more than one way to count decades. You could do it in one of the following two ways:

  • By counting every span of ten years that has occurred since the start of year 1 in the Common Era (White Hat's definition)
  • By taking the digit that is common to all years in a given ten-year span (Ponytail's definition)

White Hat's definition is an "ordinal" method since it functions by counting the number of ten-year spans since the first one, which is defined to have begun in the year 1. However, Ponytail's definition is the "cardinal" method, which simply groups years by their common most significant digits. For example, when we say "the 1980s", we mean "the span of ten years that all began with the digits 1-9-8".

Neither definition is wrong, however, Ponytail's definition is the more common one, and she notes that this is not how decades are typically determined (the show isn't called "I Love the 200th Decade"), and the fact that we count centuries in an ordinal way does not mean that we should do the same with decades.

White Hat's objection (probably deliberately) recalls an issue that was frequently discussed around the year 2000. Because we do count centuries ordinally (eg. "1st century", "20th century", etc.), and the first century began on the year 1, the 21st century did not technically start until 2001. Much of the world, not understanding this (or not caring), celebrated the dawning of the year 2000 as the start of both a new century and a new millennium, ignoring those who point out the change wouldn't happen for another year. (Though it should be noted unlike decades this is a genuine mistake rather than two slightly different definitions.)

Megan's exclamation "Stop!" is similar to the line famously used by MC Hammer in "U Can't Touch This" ("Stop! Hammer time.").

"Aughts" and "Teens" were names suggested for the 2000s and 2010s respectively; however, neither of those names managed to gain widespread acceptance.

Millennials is a name given to the generation which was born in the 80s and 90s, such that they began entering adulthood in the 2000s. The term was sometimes used pejoratively by older generations who view millennials as immature or complacent, particularly during the 2010s. The comic speculates that millennials may have been unfairly targeted due to the fact that the decade didn't have an easily-identifiable name; if it had, then people might have attributed their misgivings about modern culture to the decade itself, instead of singling out a demographic. This phenomenon was previously discussed in 1849: Decades.

Continuing the dubious "proof" offered by Megan, the title text goes on to use the Billboard Best of the 80s chart as proof that the 1980s started in 1980, as their chart includes Blondie's "Call Me", which was released in 1980. The title text ends with QED ("quod erat demonstrandum"), which means "which was [necessary] to be shown", and is traditionally used at the end of a mathematical proof as if this second landmark piece of evidence proves Megan's point as conclusively as a mathematical proof.


[Megan walks in from the left greeting Cueball, White Hat, and Ponytail standing next to each other, the last two looking in her direction.]
Megan: Happy new decade!
Ponytail: Welcome to the '20s!
White Hat: Actually—
Ponytail: I'm excited we can name decades again.
Ponytail: "Aughts" and "teens" never caught on.
[Megan stops next to Cueball as White Hat has his finger raised.]
White Hat: Actually, the new decade doesn't start-
Ponytail: Mostly, I'm just glad we can go back to attributing cultural trends to decades instead of generations.
[All four just stand normal.]
Cueball: Yeah.
Cueball: Decades were silly, but making everything about "millennials" turned out to be even worse.
Ponytail: Seriously.
[Only White Hat and Ponytail are shown, both with their arms held out to the sides.]
White Hat: It's technically not a new decade until 2021.
Ponytail: OK, listen.
Ponytail: If you're going to be pedantic, you should at least be right.
White Hat: I am right!
Ponytail: You're not.
[Zoom in on White Hat and Ponytail's upper bodies as they gesture towards each other both raising their hands, palm up. Megan interrupts them from off-panel, as made clear in the next panel. Her voice comes out of a starburst on the left panel frame.]
White Hat: See, the 20th century didn't start until--
Ponytail: But decades aren't centuries. They're not cardinally numbered.
White Hat: You don't get it. Let me draw a--
Ponytail: No, you don't--
Megan (off-panel): Stop!
[All four characters are displayed again. Megan has raised a finger and all the others look at her.]
Megan: I can resolve this.
Megan: *Ahem*
Megan: MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This (1990) was featured in I Love the '90s, not '80s.
Ponytail: ...That settles that.
White Hat: Yeah, I accept VH1's authority.
White Hat: You win.


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in gif diehard is a Christmas movie. There is no right or wrong answer. But is White Hat right or wrong? 19:00, 1 January 2020 (UTC)

Both. It's the only way to settle this. 19:13, 1 January 2020 (UTC)
I think that he is right, but it’s like asking if diehard is a Christmas movie. There is no right or wrong answer.
Indeed, famed D.J. and space journalist Scott Manley says it's a new decade in C but not in FORTRAN. 19:37, 1 January 2020 (UTC)
You mean it's already 21th century for FORTRAN? -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:33, 1 January 2020 (UTC)
But what decade is it in the Delisle scale? 20:35, 1 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm fairly certain Ponytail contradicts herself in panel 5. Arguing that decades are not cardinally numbered is arguing that the decade starts in 2021 (ordinal numbering.) 21:20, 1 January 2020 (UTC)

She doesn't: you're assuming there are only two options, but that's not the case. Decades (in the common "20s, 30s, 40s" form) are not technically numbered at all: they're named, it's just that those names are based on numbers.
It's still a sequence, like names or dictionary entries being grouped into "As, Bs, Cs" and so on, though. (Is there a specific name for this type of sequence? If so, I don't know it.) 23:03, 1 January 2020 (UTC)
She (more likely Randall's slip of the pen) is still wrong: what she means is that they aren't ordinally numbered, which is the reason the other guy is wrong. 08:23, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

Having had this conversation on WhatsApp, I have settled on an ingenious solution that works for me (on being told that "0" had not been invented in the year between -1 and +1") and explains why decades start with "10, 20...": As usually nowadays, the first decade was the Betaversion and so only ran from 1-9... (talk) 07:29, 2 January 2020 (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Nobody really recognised the possibility of having/not having 0AD until c.525AD, anyway. (Sitting betwixt the nominal start of what became in our zero in 5thC and its eventual formalising in 7thC, over in India/etc.) If you ask me (and you aren't doing, I know!) I think they probably were envisaging an early version of 1s' Compliment, but knew it would be silly to have two separate numbers for the year ±0 and so fudged it entirely the other way. ;) 11:37, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

Every year is a new decade. Just some of them overlap. The 203rd decade was from 2021 to 2030, while the '20s will run from 1920 to 1929. Both are legitimate decades. So id 1994-2003; it just doesn't have a convenient name to refer to it by. Heck, you don't even need a new year. 1981-12-03 to 1991-12-02 is the first decade of my life :) So if you want to celebrate the start of a new decade, you should celebrate every single day. Angel (talk) 10:48, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

By that logic, the 203rd decade started 203 planck lengths (or other smaller time units) after the big bang. Or was it 202 planck lenghts after? However I agree, that decades start and end all the time. The question is just, what day does the decade "the 20s" start. I'd say it started on January 1, 2020. --Lupo (talk) 11:23, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

There is an interesting theory that CULTURALLY, a new decade doesn't really start until year 2 or year 3 of said decade. So, what we traditionally envision as "the 80s" actually was typical for ca. 1983-1992, what we think of as "the 90s" actually happened between 1993 and 2002, and so on. It makes a lot of sense if you think of it (and if you listen to music or look at pictures of the time); mullets were still a thing in 1991, just as carrot pants were in 1981 and psychedelic music was in 1971. (It also works for centuries, but with a longer timespan, about 15 years. 1910 or 1911 feels a lot more 19th century than 20th century. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna was held, which ended the European Wars of the 18th century and laid the foundation for the nation states typical of the 19th century, and for a period of relative peace that enabled the Industrial Revolution. And so on.)-- 12:00, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

I'd argue that this is just randomness. There is no reason, any trends should align to the way the years are set up. Of course noone says "hey, it's first January 2020, let's start a new style of dressing and listen to new music." But neither do they in 2022. However e.g. carrot pants were MOST popular, and on their peak of popularity in the 70s, and psychadelic music in the 60s, even though trends linger and resurface long after all the time. --Lupo (talk) 12:54, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
Well, I'd already planned to use exclusive and entirely 2020s' slang and fashion from yesterday onwards. After a few false starts because nobody knew what I was vocing about, I'm now starting it ween and only going full-barbecue as I get past the prime snick of my voc, in empthy my viewclan viz my deltas and merj my vocstyel, all charged for the dec fronting up! Ten-four, me hearties? 16:20, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
Except the 19th century started in 1789; cf. the long nineteenth century. I had never heard of a 1815 start for the nineteenth century before. The nineteenth century is 1789-1914, and the twentieth century started in 1914 and ended in 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union. Looking at just American history, the nineteenth century obviously starts in 1776 and ends at the start or end of the Civil War, 1860ish. It's all arbitrary lines.--Prosfilaes (talk) 02:35, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Do you have any source or examples from actual historians, using a definition of centuries based on events instead of 100-year periods following each other? Eras or Ages might be debatable and dependent on the spirit of a given time, events, rulers, etc. but I have never heard about centuries being defined that way. The 19th Century started either in 1800 or 1801 and lasted until 1899/1900. --Lupo (talk) 07:07, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Cf The Long Nineteenth Century.--Prosfilaes (talk) 09:16, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks. Interesting to read. I was not aware that this is a thing. However the wikipedia article explicitely calls "the long nineteenth century" a period, never a century (There is no sentence such as "the long nineteenth century is a century that [...]"). So I'd still say the 19th century started in 1800/1801, while the "long 19th century" started in 1750/1789. The Wikipedia article on century seems also to take centurys as literal 100 year periods: "A century is a period of 100 years. Centuries are numbered ordinally in English and many other languages."--Lupo (talk) 09:50, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

In the decades under discussion, VH1 and MTV were competing channels, not parent company - child company. (And MTV came first.) It's much more relevant to the explanation that VH1 was a music channel on cable TV than to explain who owns what now, three decades later. 15:59, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

I find it surprising that Randall didn't reference ISO-8601 by way of Wikipedia, such as in the Year Zero article, to make the argument that the first 10 years ran from 0-9 as "the standard". Though I suppose it is more entertaining/broadly targeted to reference pop. culture sources when labeling pop. culture trends. SensorSmith (talk) 16:12, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

Well I might be stepping into a minefield by saying this, but obviously both CNN and FOX had dedicated articles reporting this issue and, as expected, have slightly different stances on the answer. I wonder if Randall is aware of this. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/21/us/when-does-the-decade-end-begin-trnd/index.html https://www.foxnews.com/us/does-2020-start-a-new-decade-or-not-everyone-has-an-opinion

I really get a feeling that there's an extra joke or nod somewhere in the title text that's not covered - anyone spent a little more time on that yet? or maybe have a little more? Despite the feeling, nothing is occurring to me :-( Brettpeirce (talk) 14:31, 16 January 2020 (UTC)


I did a significant rewrite which captures most of what had been said, but tidies up and clarifies some points. I also removed some information that I felt wasn't relevant (eg. the trivia about Jesus' birth - while true and interesting, it isn't actually relevant to the comic or the explanation) - feel free to add anything back that you think should still be included for completeness.

Can I just say, though, that I am not a fan of this rambling style of recapping the comic blow-by-blow while explaining it? It seems to be a common style here but it makes the explanation significantly more difficult to follow. Here is an example of what I mean:

"At this point Megan stops their heated argument claiming she can resolve this. She then states that MC Hammer's song "U Can't Touch This", released in 1990, was featured in a 1990s-themed television show (I Love the '90s) instead of its 1980s-themed counterpart. Ponytail then claims that this settles the discussion. And White Hat throws in the towel stating that he accepts VH1's authority and lets Ponytail win."

Recapitulating the comic can sometimes be useful to give context to the explanation, but it gets difficult to follow when the text starts jumping back-and-forth between explaining things and simply stating things that are happening in the comic. In my rewrite, I have attempted to give a short recap at the very start of the explanation, to provide context; then, I have added explanations of the points raised by the comic. I still don't think it's the best way to go about it, but I think it's better. Hawthorn (talk) 14:20, 3 January 2020 (UTC)

+1 - I really like your rewrite :) --Lupo (talk) 14:25, 3 January 2020 (UTC)

I wonder that seemingly nobody noticed that Megan is doing the characteristic part of the song here: "Stop! Hammertime!" I'm not sure how to inlcude that into the explanation, though... Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 09:16, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

Added :) Hawthorn (talk) 11:02, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Cool, thanks :) Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:43, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

White Hat is engaging in hypercorrection, one of the worst crimes of the pseudo-intellectual. They learn something but don't understand it, and then overcompensate by applying it too broadly. Grammar is one of their biggest failings. For example, you do not add -ly to every adjective that's simply placed near a verb. You feel bad, not badly. And while one does not end a clause with a preposition, "prepositions" like "in" and "with" are often not prepositions at all, but particles that serve a utility role and are valid at the end of a sentence. — Kazvorpal (talk) 16:51, 23 January 2020 (UTC)

I have no idea what your comment invokes inside me. I feel badly. --Lupo (talk) 07:42, 24 January 2020 (UTC)

2 years later future context update: Nobody loves the 20s. And culturally (in the US) they started around 2020-03-20 when everything first locked down. davidgro (talk) 20:24, 17 May 2022 (UTC)

N.B.: Over here in the most right proper honourable land of the United Kingdom, we call the 2000s decade the 'Noughties'. It caught on OK in these great, green and pleasant lands. 22:50, 17 January 2023 (UTC)

Also "the 2000s" has ambiguity. Is that 200x (as in "the 1990s" being 199x), 20xx (as in "the 1900s" often being taken as 19xx, being the 20usup>th</sup>C except for the single-year borrow/lend at each end) or even 2xxx (as opposed to 1000-1999's 'nearly the second millenium' predecessor).
"The naughties"/similar has a similar potential for which length of zeros (or which run of them; conceivably "000x", "00xx", "0xxx"... or even "0(x+),xxx" once that also becomes a potential matter of general hindsight), except that it is so infrequently applied prior to the current era (a smattering of 19xx usage), or for the century/millenium not yet even usefully part way through that so far it's not really necessary even if the ordinal C/M wasn't already probably as usabld already. So, for us, right now, it's as good a shot cut as it needs to be.
And only the 'modern history' folks might need to talk a lot about something like the "nineteen-ohs" (and "-tens/-twenties") in a way that ambiguity could have crept in to, these last few years, if omiting the "nineteen-" part.
By 2100, either there'll be other terms or living memory will shift the contextual window, but I don't expect to ever learn what happens myself. I may start to see which it goes by the time the 2060s need popular description. (Will they also be 'swinging'? I missed that last time round, just, and doubt I'll be part of the 'revival'...) But, if these words survive long enough to be read, I'll let those who have a good retrospective view on such future terminology have a good laugh at how wrong (or right?) my ideas are. ;) 12:36, 18 January 2023 (UTC)

For the record, White Hat is correct. There was no year 0. Therefore, the first decade was 1-10, so the next was 11-20, etc. Wilh3lm (talk) 22:44, 9 December 2023 (UTC)

That only counts if you insist that the <foo>(ies/s/whatever) designation is a strict full decade. (Or a century or a millenium.) In this case the original "naughties/noughties/..." is years 1..9*, the original 10s will then be 10..19, etc. But the 'tens' can't include 9 to be 9-19 (or 2009-2019 where that's short for the "twenty-tens"), because 9 isn't in the 'tens' list. Instead, just accept that the zero-starting set is deficient by one (whatever order of years it encompasses), or that it all gets a bit complicated anyway when the apparent cue for the numbering system happened (if at all) between 6BC(E) and 4BC(E), and with no reason at all to be December the 25th as well.
* - or 1..99 in 'century speak' or 1..999 in 'millenium speak', like "the 2000s" can be ambiguously 2000-2009 (next in line being "the 2010s"), 2000-2099 (next being "the 2100s) or the whole of 2000-2999 (next up being "the 3000s"), depending on context, manner of speaking, intention and all kinds of other details.
This is, of course, separate from the "first decade", "21st century", etc, which is "explicitly 10ⁿ years", but that's a demand from the ordinality of the number reference, which isn't actually asked of when it's a cardinality reference that merely says "all existing years that subscribe to this (fully qualified) pattern", which zero might belong to, if only it wasn't imaginary. 00:27, 10 December 2023 (UTC)
Indeed. "Welcome to the 203rd Decade" would (at that time) be wrong, or at least questionable, much as the 21st Century and the 3rd Millenium did not start on 2000-01-01 (even whilst residual Y2K issues with current dates would have) but 2001-01-01.
But I was happy enough to celebrate Y2K happening (and yet the bugs not, due in a relatively minute but otherwise real part of my own efforts in this regard over the years immediately beforehand) one year, then separately celebrate the New Millenium (with a lesser degree of nagging pensiveness and worry) the next. The one after it was just a New Year's celebration, as it might have been in in 1999 (well, maybe pallindromically interesting, but then again didn't have a 'party' song written especially about it). 04:32, 10 December 2023 (UTC)

Couldn't quite fit enough explanation into the summary, of the latest revert (had to splice out most of the default info), but it looked like the editor was welded to 2021 being the start of the "202nd decade". For the record it would be 203rd. (First 1-10, Second 11-20, ...10th 91-100... ...100th 991-1000... 200th 1991-2000, 201st 2001-2010, 202nd 2011-2020, "Welcome to 2021, first year of the 203rd decade...").
Not that really anybody but historians of the biblical era (NT, mainly, in low number AD/BC/CE/BCE times) uses Nth decade at all. It's not even common to have "20th Decade (before/after)" references, though we used 20th Century, and currently 21st Century (displaced by 3rd Millenium, a bit, in ways that 22nd Century wouldn't be). Possibly we'd also completely grow out of Nth Century terminology for future times by the time N approached anything like 100, given the opportunity to still be discussing the new ones at all (or at least in recognisable cognates).
But up to five generations of people might well exist totally/significantly in just one century, to make it a static tropename, and two or three might even usefully the term in everyday speech to contrast with an adjacent one that they also experienced ("...it's the 512th Century, now, and I still can't get a scheduled FTL transport from here to Rigel. It's like it's still the 511th! I still have to charter a ship or else stop over at the Alpha Centauri transport hub then onwards to..." ), assuming lifespans/existences don't increase to multicentury levels and blur even those lines.
...anyway, I didn't spot any overwhelmingly worthy differences (there was some rearranging done, which might have been Ok in itself but also made the "diff"s hard to check for, e.g., a punctuation correction now hidden in a sea of modification-highlighting). It looked like a bit of editing effort was made, but the mis-ordordinality and a couple of other things (like removal of a linefeed, without actually removing a second to meld the original two paragraphs together 'officially') made it look less than fully considered as to why to rewrite it at all. Original author will know what they intended and might be able to restore the edit whilst dealing with the stated problems (and checking for others). 15:29, 11 February 2024 (UTC)