1849: Decades

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In the 90s, our variety radio station used the tagline "the best music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s." After 2000, they switched to "the best music of the 80s, 90s, and today." I figured they'd change again in 2010, but it's 2017 and they're still saying "80s, 90s, and today." I hope radio survives long enough for us to find out how they deal with the 2020s.
Title text: In the 90s, our variety radio station used the tagline "the best music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s." After 2000, they switched to "the best music of the 80s, 90s, and today." I figured they'd change again in 2010, but it's 2017 and they're still saying "80s, 90s, and today." I hope radio survives long enough for us to find out how they deal with the 2020s.


From the 1960s to the 1990s, it was common to group eras by decades. Fashion, music, and other cultural trends that changed relatively quickly were often defined by those decades. People casually and commonly referred to "the sixties", and so on, to separate these periods.

This pattern broke down after 1999, because it didn't naturally lend itself to an analogous phrase for the year from 2000-2009. A number of different terms have been proposed and used: "the Aughts", and "the noughties" had been used for 1900-1909, but have an archaic flavor that may not work for everyone. "The "2000s" and "the millenium" are ambiguous and clunky. None of these terms ever became popular enough to become a consensus term. Similarly for the period from 2010-2019, terms like "the 2010s" and "the teens" have been used, but not widely accepted.

The practical upshot of all of this is that verbally splitting time periods into clear decades simply became less obvious for the periods since 2000. While people still refer to earlier time periods by decades, it is far less common to do so when referring to recent years. The roll-over text gives the example that we still refer to "music of the '80s and '90s" (although the comic omits the apostrophes that might normally indicate the missing century digits), but rarely refer to "music of the 2000s" or something similar.

The time-line in the comic stretches into the future (as of the time of publication), and uses question marks to present uncertainty over whether the decade-grouping trend will return in the 2020s. On the one hand, such was a well-established custom, and we once again have clear language for it. On the other hand, after largely abandoning the custom for 20 years, it is far from certain that people will adopt it again.

What isn't mentioned in the comic, but may be relevant, is that, in the absence of those decade categories, it has become more common to refer to time periods and the people who grew up in them by somewhat arbitrary generational categories: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, Gen Z, and so on. This has provided an adequate substitute, since youth culture in the 2000s and 2010s has been more commonly defined as millennial culture". There are drawbacks to this (both because the terms are more loosely defined, and because they often come with negative connotations), but these trends may have become sufficiently ingrained that they could displace the older decade-based divisions.

The title text gives the specific example of Randall's local radio station dividing music by decades, and points out they simply started talking around the decades from 2000 to 2019. He implies that whether they resume this pattern in the 2020s will be a good indicator of whether this speech pattern will resume, but expressed doubt whether radio will last long enough to find out. This is a jab at the radio industry, which has been in decline for a long time as it has faced increasing competition from other communications technologies. While it is unlikely that the radio industry will cease to exist in the near future, further decline seems probable.

Twenties were discussed again later in 2249: I Love the 20s.


[A timeline across the top of the box marks decades from 1960 to 2030, the labels are above the line and the ticks marking each decade are below.]
[Label: 1960]
60s Music; 60s Fashion; 60s Movies; 60s Culture
[Label: 1970]
70s Music; 70s Fashion; 70s Movies; 70s Culture
[Label: 1980]
80s Music; 80s Fashion; 80s Movies; 80s Culture
[Label: 1990]
90s Music; 90s Fashion; 90s Movies; 90s Culture
[Label: 2000 and 2010]
[Items grouped over two decades.]
Fashion; Culture; Music; Movies
[Label: 2020]
[The text is in light grey font.]
20s Music?; 20s Fashion?; 20s Movies?; 20s Culture?
[Label: 2030]
[Caption below the panel:]
It's weird how for 20 years we stopped grouping our cultural memories by decade because "2000s" is ambiguous and and "Aughts" and "Teens" never really stuck.


  • Randall has by mistake, written "and and aughts" in the caption for this comic, instead of "and aughts".

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There seems to be a slightly tongue-in-cheek move to call the 2000's "the noughties" with the obvious implication of 'naughty'. Personally though I'm still waiting for everyone to stop saying "2000 and something, it very annoying! RoyT (talk) 14:38, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

Some people I know use the term "double-o's" for the period 2001-2009. Perhaps inspired by 007. --Nialpxe, 2017. (Arguments welcome) 02:30, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

Where would the descriptor "millennial" (adj) fit on this? I suggest that 00's fads be designated "millennial" and 10's fads be... forgotten. 14:57, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

Just a quick note to highlight the double "and" in the text: "(...) is ambiguous and and "aughts" (...)" 14:43, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

Good eyes on the double 'and'. Perhaps the explanation needs a sections about other terms not mentioned here "teensies" "noughties" "tenies" etc. (and perhaps the Aughts aren't used due to cultural differences between Brits and Americans, the former more likely to call them the "Noughts"). Also I assume the title text refers to Randal's local variety radio. WamSam (talk) 15:07, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

It's no phenomenom of English language. In Germany "80er, 90er und heute" is used quite frequently by several radio stations. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 06:48, 13 June 2017 (UTC)
Around here (UK) I'm used to hearing "80s, 90s, and now". Seems a bit weird on a 'classic' radio station who didn't play music from the current decade until the 2k rebranding. - 08:37, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

I listen to a radio station that says "90s, 2K, and today." It's not the only time I've seen "2K" used for the first decade of the 2000s (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

2K might end up being the accepted form. It might morph into "the 2-10s," "the 2-20s," "the 2-30s," and so on. It differentiates the seperate centuries and is short enough to survive the endless grinding of popular culture. 23:49, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

I propose the Decade of Good Vision (2020s) 13:17, 16 June 2017 (UTC))

I see what you did there. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:34, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
Well this aged poorly. 00:13, 27 February 2022 (UTC)

My local variety station has been says "80s, 90s and today" since the mid-90s, which was really odd for the 5 years or so that it was redundant. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Around here "the zeroes" is commonly used. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Next Comic
                                                       COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS:
                                                      |< <PREV RANDOM NEXT> >|
|---------------------------| |----------------------------| |----------------------------| |----------------------------|
| Normal Company            | |   Stingy Company           | | Bored Economist            | |                *crash*     |
|                           | |                            | |                            | |                            |
| Is it worth it  Let's     | | Is cost-      Let's do     | | I built a        Did you   | |                            |
| to spend that  do cost-   | | Benefit       Cost-Benefit | | machine to do    do cost-  | | No, why?    YOU FOOL!      |
| much on        benefit    | | analysis      analysis to  | | cost-benefit     benefit   | |             YOU'VE         |
| development?   analysis   | | worth it?     see          | | analysis         analysis? | |             DOOMED US ALL!!|
|  /                /       | |   /             /          | |    /                /      | |  /               /         |
|  O               0        | |  O              0          | |   O                0       | |  O               0         |
| /|\             /|\       | | /|\            /|\         | |  /|\              /|\      | | /|\             /|\        |
| / \             / \       | | / \            / \         | |  / \              / \      | | / \             / \        |
|                           | |                            | |                            | |                *rumble*    |
|---------------------------| |----------------------------| |----------------------------| |----------------------------| (talk)  (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Does this mean that there are supposed to be comments on the "next comic". One of the problems with the discussion is that there can be predictive cost/benefits analysis (done before the project is carried out) and retrospective cost/benefits analysis (done sometime after the project is complete). Retrospective cost/benefits analysis can be used to review the accuracy of predictive cost/benefits analysis. If the accuracy is not verified, the value of the analysis is indeterminate. Are the costs all costs or simply costs that are assigned to the evaluating organization? What is the organization for which benefits are to be calculated? Have the effects of Campbell's Law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell%27s_law and Goodhart's Law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law been taken into account? BradleyRoss (talk) 16:17, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

@ Wait, what? 06:23, 13 June 2017 (UTC)
Aaaaaand evidently not. :) Perhaps being revealed here made him change it? LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:16, 16 June 2017 (UTC)
Was there any prerelease of some comic, or what is this about? if so, and someone remembers / finds anything on an archive, it should be covered somewhere in this wiki? --Lupo (talk) 13:00, 30 September 2019 (UTC)

What does Randall usually do when there is typo/grammatical error in a comic? Will he correct it and re-upload it, or just leave it? 23:02, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

He'll often notice errors and upload corrected versions, though as of this comment he hasn't yet (nearly 3AM Eastern). Then that fact ends up as trivia here. For example, a few comics ago, the map of America with a word in each state, a paragraph saying how you can make maps like this show whatever you want, he had missed the line separating New Hampshire and Maine, and later the line was there. Same with text errors, a month or two ago was a comic saying "defeatest", then later "defeatist". NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:52, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

Wouldn't we run into the same issue in 2020? Since contemporary radio stations are always naming the previous two decades (this formula seems to apply worldwide, it at least does in germany) we wouldn't be able to name them in 2020. "The best hits of the last two decades!"? "You're tuning in to DCKX 102.5! Where we play music - sometimes, duh!"? 07:28, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

my daughter (2009) gleefully uses the term "noughties" since that makes her homophonously "naughty". she's not so keen on her siblings (2011) being "teens" although that may change when she actually becomes one herself. as with so many things, it's not ultimately up to the old to decide these things. -- 11:48, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

Seems like radio stations all around the world used the exact same slogan of "the best of the 80's, 90's and the best from today". I know one radio station that changed it to "80's, 90's, 2000's and the best from today" some time after 2010. But I'm not really that keen to listen to radio long enough to find out if they changed it again. :( 16:39, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

"the best music from the 80's to the 20's"? 07:10, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

What I'm wondering: What'll they do after 2030? The term "The 20s" already means something, the 1920s. 20s dance, music and fashion are already quite iconic, and still referenced (right now immediately comes to mind is an episode of Making History from maybe 2 months ago, where they went back to that time). Will a radio station's "20's Hour" mean the 1920s or 2020s? LOL! (Imagine it being both) (Hey, where'd my signature and timestamp go? Guess it's a new timestamp now) :( NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:14, 27 June 2017 (UTC)

What we'll do is hope the context will make it clear. The 1880s brought a number of historical and literary developments that made me worry (back in the 70s) how we would deal with the ambiguity. The answer was simply notational overloading. More general remark: I think the 1980s never stopped. 1990s culture has nothing to set it apart, and things have not gotten any better. 10:20, 19 September 2017 (UTC)

Some of my friends and I started calling this decade the "tenties" not too long ago, mostly because of how stupid it sounds. "Teens" sounds much better. LuigiBrick (talk) 11:14, 24 June 2017 (UTC)

I was amused to note today, in Grand Theft Auto V they have radio stations, and the one I always listen to advertises that it plays music "from the 80s, 90s and Naughties". :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:02, 30 June 2017 (UTC)

  • 2020 Update*

Well, explain XKCD served this internal link up as an advert to me today and it's 2020. We're in the middle of a Pandemic Category:COVID-19 and we still have radio, and they still say "80's, 90's and today".. So... The answer so far is "everything has changed but the music". Iggynelix (talk)`