This week I am celebrating ten years since we arrived in Zambia, so I have planned a week of ‘Ten’ words. Clearly I have to start with this:
A period of ten years
from Greek deka ten
So many of our anniversaries and celebrations are based upon multiples of ten. Of course, with our arabic system of numerals, ten is an easy number to picture and multiply by. We talk about it being a ’round number’, emphasised by the circular zero at the end. On Thursday I plan to share some of the more mathematical ‘ten’ words.
Interestingly, you can turn it into an adjective (decadial) and there is a pretty much obsolete version decad. The prefix deca- is the root of most of our ‘ten’ words, but an alternative for decade is decennary, or decennium. These have their roots in deci– a tenth. They are a tenth of a centenary – 100 years is perhaps an even rounder number?
The other common word that has to do with time and tens is December: the twelfth month of the year. Clearly that has little logic, unless you look into the history. In the original Roman calendar, it was the tenth month of the year, but there was a monthless period in winter (for the Northern hemisphere, and in particular for the Romans whose calendar it is!). In around 713BC this period was divided between the months of January and February, relegating December to twelfth month, though the name remained. September (7th), October (8th) and November (9th) suffered the same fate.
So, a decade since we left the UK and ‘The Noughties’ became my Zambian decade. How quickly time flies!
On Tuesday: tens in a biological context