turn of the century

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turn of the century

Post by ejbeverly » Tue Jun 28, 2005 9:38 pm

Does this phrase refer to the ending of a century or the beginning of a new century? For example, is year 2000 the turn of the 20th century or the 21st century?
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turn of the century

Post by russcable » Wed Jun 29, 2005 7:26 am

"Turn of the century" refers to a vague time frame from sometime in the xx90's through the xy00's which may be up to a 20 year period more or less and not an exact moment in time. A related phrase is "fin de siecle" (French for end of the century) which likewise usually refers to the xx90's but sometimes includes the early xy00's as well.
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turn of the century

Post by kagriffy » Wed Jun 29, 2005 6:05 pm

So that means I live in a "turn of the century" house, because it was built in 1995! (I just don't have to tell anyone WHICH century!!!) *G*
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turn of the century

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:57 am

I was reading a book review of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (which I ended up buying) where they gave the time period of the story as the TURN INTO THE 19th CENTURY, whereas another review described it in the standard way as the TURN OF THE 19th CENTURY. Incidentally, ‘turn of the century’ is usually taken to span about 10 years on either side of the actual turn (e.g. 1800 ± ~10 years).

Well I’ll be damned. All these years I’ve struggled with the TURN OF form. Logic would seem to say, at least my logic, that the turn of the 19th century was the turning of the 19th into the 20th (~ 1900), whereas it was supposed to mean the 18th turning into the 19th (~ 1800).

I think whoever came up with this eminently sensible TURN INTO way of describing one century turning into the next, by the surprising (who would have ever thunk?) phrase TURN INTO, should win the English Language Disambiguation Award.

My unbiased prediction is that in not too many years the TURN INTO will be in and TURN OF will be out.

To compare how common this newer form is, I did a Google search and came up the following (at my space-time coordinates):

TURN OF THE 19th CENTURY [~ 1800] – ~ 50 million

TURN INTO THE 19th CENTURY [~ 1800] – ~ 90 thousand
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TURN OF THE 20th CENTURY [~ 1900]– ~ 34 million

TURN INTO THE 20th CENTURY [~ 1900] – ~ 400 thousand
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TURN OF THE 21st CENTURY [~ 2000] – ~ 50 million

TURN INTO THE 21st CENTURY [~ 2000] – ~ 2 million
_____________

Well, it’s not all that common yet, but progress is being made.

________________________

Ken G – September 17, 2011
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:36 am

.. oh dear another dumbing down to accommodate those people who cannot understand plain english .. and refuse to learn ..

WoZ with a wink
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:53 pm

. . oh dear another person with a superiority complex who cannot recognize an ambiguity when they see one . . and refuse to learn.
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Re: turn of the century

Post by hsargent » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:04 am

Was there a year 0? If there are 100 years in a century, the answer is obvious. The year 2000 was in the 20th century.
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:19 am

.. Ken I'll see your smirk and raise you a grimace ..

WoZ pokerfaced
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:32 am

You are technically right, Harry -- 2000 was the last year of the 20th century, but the prevalent desire to attach some kind of symbolic importance to a new numerical prefix before the digits that signify the years of the decade trumped mathematical logic. This was probably amplified by the issue of the Y2K software problem, as well as the eagerness of marketers to exploit the opportunity of being able to stick the 'New Millennium' label onto their offerings.

Anyway, I mainly wanted to suggest that the logical twin of 'turn into the XX century' would be 'turn from the XX century', referring to the transition at the end of a given century to its successor.

For example, whereas 'turn into the 20th century' would signify the transition from the 19th century to the 20th, 'turn from the 20th century' would signify the transition from the 20th century to the 21st. A few Google hits at my space/time coordinates (numbering in the low tens) for the search term "turn from the 20th century" have applied the expression in this sense.

(Following the logic of my reply to Harry, the year referred to by the expression 'turn from the 20th century' (or 'turn of the 21st century') was 2000 if you mean the turn from the 1900s to the 2000s, and 2001 if you mean the turn from the 20th century to the 21st century. It's a subtle distinction, and hence contains much scope for confusion.

Perhaps because the mathematical concept of zero was not as well embedded when the concept of the century or millennium was getting established as it is today, by convention the A.D. period did not begin with the year zero, but with the year 1. Had it been otherwise, the ambiguity or uncertainty concerning which year actually marks the start of a decade / century / millennium would presumably not exist today.)
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:15 am

2000 was the last year of the Twentieth Century. I was really annoyed that it seemed the whole world thought it was the first of the Twenty-first.

I shall start the campaign to get it right earlier next time.



Captain Jack Harkness
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:20 am

In that case, I plan to stick around to see how it works out.
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Re: turn of the century

Post by hsargent » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:37 pm

Paradoxically, every four centuries, the leap year is not imposed to make up for fractions in the 365.XXX days in the year. That occurs in the 2200 year I believe. So practically the 0 year thing is ignored.

When we did computer programming, we thought about this briefly but realized that we would not be around to worry about it.
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Sep 20, 2011 5:19 am

Harry, Speaking of no year zero, there is an amusing story I heard many years ago while taking a math history course. In 1930 the classics department at some prestigious university, I can’t remember which, decided to have a Vergil/Virgil bash – he was born in 70 B.C. – to celebrate the bimillennium of his birth. However, someone in the math department put a damper on the festivities when they pointed out that Vergil’s bimillennium would actually occur in 1931.

For those who are still confused by the “no year zero” idea and its consequences, here is a simple way to look at it. If a baby was born in the January of the year 1 B.C., how old will it be on its birthday in January of 1 A.D.? One might be tempted to say the baby will be two years old on the model of the number line where the distance from -1 to +1 is two units. Minus one to zero would be one year and zero to one would be one year, and 1+1 = 2 years. But that’s not how going from B.C. to A.D. works.

Well, if you check your calendar (I always keep a calendar in my wallet that runs from 500 B.C. to the present), you will notice that the day after December 31 in the year 1 B.C. must be January 1 in the year 1 A.D. The only alternative would be if your calendar said January 1 in the year zero. But there is no year zero. In the system of keeping track of dates, it is clear that having a year zero makes no sense. So we are left with the fact that 1 year has elapsed and the baby is 1 year old.

So it appears that a correction must be made in calculating ages that pass from B.C. to A.D. People who weren’t in the know would just add the B.C. years to the A.D. years, on the model of the number line and come up with the incorrect answer (e.g. 1 year form the B.C. side plus 1 year from the A.D. side gives that the baby is 2 years old). But that’s the wrong answer because it was just demonstrated that the baby is actually 1 year old. So how is the correction made? One year must be subtracted from the incorrect calculation to correct for there being no year ‘zero.’

So the classics department at that prestigious university was off by one year: 70 + 1930 - 1 = 1999 years. Oh well, at least they had a second chance to get it right in 1931.
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Sep 20, 2011 5:56 am

I would hope they marked the occasion by making a film titled something along the lines of The 2000-year-old Virgil.
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Re: turn of the century

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:08 am

And just imagine the possibilities that would have opened for sequels, The 2001-year-old Virgil, The 2002-year-old Virgil, . . .
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