The Very Unnaughty Noughties

In previous centuries each decade has generally had a label based on its numerical value:

  • 1950-1959: The Fifties
  • 1960-1969: The Sixties
  • 1970-1979: The Seventies
  • 1980-1989: The Eighties
  • 1990-1999: The Nineties

Now it seems that the first decade of the 21st century (2000-2009) is being called The Noughties (“nought” = 0 or zero).

We must take care not to confuse this with the adjective “naughty”, which can mean:

  • disobedient (especially for children)
  • slightly rude, badly behaved, indecent, sexually “improper”, obscene, pornographic etc

Wonderful as it might be to call the 21st century’s first decade The Naughty Noughties (like The Swinging Sixties), this is impossible as it was one of the most proper – even pious – periods in history, in which political correctitude came of age and fundamentalists of all religions gained ascendancy.


By Josef Essberger for EnglishClub January 2010
Josef started teaching English as a foreign language in 1991 and founded EnglishClub for learners and teachers in 1997.

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