THERE'S an online debate going on worldwide on how to call this new year.

Do you say it is the year “twenty ten”? “Two thousand ten”? Or the longer “two thousand and ten”? Or the shorter “two oh ten”?

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It is not a problem when you write the year 2010, but try to say it and you fumble at what could be the proper way of stating the year. Print writers do not have a problem but broadcasters and podcasters online have come up with different styles.

Some say there must be a rule to be followed. What is the rule?

A website with the address www.twentynot2000.com is advocating we stop saying it the longer way. It said the right way is to say “twenty ten.” The wrong ways are “two thousand and ten,” “two thousand ten,” and “two oh ten.”

The website has only one page with the right way of saying it displayed prominently. Below it is the message:

“Say the year ‘1810’ out loud. Now say the year ‘1999’ out loud.

See a pattern? It's been easier, faster, and shorter to say years this way for every decade (except for the one that just ended) instead of saying the number the long way. However, many people are carrying the way they said years from last decade over to this decade as a bad habit. If we don't fix this now, we'll be stuck saying years the long way for the next 89 years.

Don't let that happen!”

The website has a Facebook group with the name “It’s Twenty-ten, not Two-thousand-and-ten.” As of Saturday, it has 3,538 members and its fan page has 25,595 fans.

Some people said they prefer to say “twenty ten” because it sounds cooler, it’s easier to say, and it is a familiar way of saying it in this age of SMS or texting. Others, however, protested at changing the way they have been saying the years.

Still some said we will get used to “twenty ten” and that less is more in 2010.

Broadcast media organizations in the United States are also caught in a quandary, according to a New York Post report (www.nypost.com) dated Jan. 2, 2010. Policies still have to be set on the organization’s style. So far, television people have been interchanging “twenty ten” and “two thousand ten.”

Others have initiated a poll to find out how their viewers would prefer it. What The Reporter, a local newspaper in the United States, got was that their readers were divided on the issue.

About a half of those polled wanted to keep it short and the other half wanted the old way of saying “two thousand ten” or “two thousand and ten.”

This debate may seem trivial to many but the newness of it provides us with the opportunity to scrutinize language usage and how words continue to evolve through the years.

I prefer the shorter “twenty ten” in conversations but would not hesitate to use the longer “two thousand ten” in formal invitations or ceremonies. What is important is we get understood. What is more important is we continue to receive blessings in tens and twenties and in leaps and bounds in this new year.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)