Zero intolerance

August 11, 2011

Could we please remind ourselves to correct at every opportunity the developing habit of referring to the 20th century as the 1900s?

Of course, the same problem affects other centuries. This evening on BBC2 I heard a historian with a doctorate, who should have known better, mention the mid-1600s when in fact she meant the mid-17th century rather than c.1605.

This misuse of English is resulting in miscommunication, confusion and misunderstanding. How are we to assess students who use a term that is acquiring a dual meaning? Should we give up and refer to the "long 18th century" as the "long 1700s", or the Twentieth Century Society as the 1900s Society?

Zero tolerance for the misuse of zeros! It is dangerous for everyone.

David Wilson, Dalston, Cumbria

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