DEFINING DECADES….Timothy Noah, writing on the subject of decades, asks “Can we please agree on what era it is we’re living in?” It turns out he’s trying to figure out if our current decade should be called the “aughts” or not, but I’ve got a different question along the same lines: how long is a decade?

By my count, the shortest decade of the last century lasted 5 years and the longest lasted 17 years. Here’s my highly America-centric rundown:

  • 20s: 1919-1929 (League of Nations vote to stock market crash)

  • 30s: 1929-1941 (Great Depression)

  • 40s: 1941-1946 (WWII)

  • 50s: 1946-1963 (Churchill “Iron Curtain” speech to JFK assassination)

  • 60s: 1964-1973 (Civil Rights Act to end of Vietnam War)

  • 70s: 1973-1980 (1st oil shock/Watergate to 2nd oil shock/Iran hostage crisis)

  • 80s: 1981-1989 (Reagan election to fall of Berlin Wall)

  • 90s: 1990-2001 (Berlin Wall to 9/11)

  • 00s: 2001-

This is all subjective, of course. But when I think of “the 60s,” for example, I think of them as starting with Meet the Beatles, the Civil Rights Act, and the Free Speech Movement. The 70s are defined by Watergate and the twin oil shocks.

At least they are to me. Defining decades as actual ten-year periods just seems awfully confining, doesn’t it?