Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1993 10:18:51 EST
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: name that decade
In response to Sali's query, I wouldn't say you needed a time machine to refer
to the 1890's as "the nineties" today; there is a deictic element, to be sure,
but it just sets up a preference. As Zipf noted sometime back, the value of a
truncation or other least-effort abbreviation, including acronyms, will tend
to be interpreted in the most efficient way for a particular shared context.
So "OSU" is (the) Ohio/Oklahoma/Oregon State University depending on where you
are or to whom you're talking, "PC" is personal computer/political
correctness/personal communication depending on the context, etc. So if we
set up a context in which we're talking about the turn of the century (! --of
course, in THIS context, I mean the 19th-- 20th century), the nineties
(whether or not qualified as Gay) will be the 1890's.
With a true deictic, on the other hand, no shift of this sort is
possible, short of "style indirect libre". 'Three days AGO', 'today', or 'now'
are always be interpreted with reference to the utterance time.
As for the coming decade, I like the suggestion of whoever it was (quoted,
inter alia, by Safire) of calling them the Naughty Aughties (or Oughties?).
Sounds like fun, especially after the Gray Nineties.