General Question

Les's avatar

Which "turn of the century" am I referring to?

Asked by Les (9640points) June 4th, 2009

I was talking with some people today, and the phrase “at the turn of the century” came up. We were talking about the late 1800s/early 1900s.
But now that we are in a new century (yeah, I know, nine years later), can this phrase still be used? When I hear it, I immediately think of the 1900s “turn of the century”.

What does the collective think?

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13 Answers

ubersiren's avatar

I think the one just passed will more likely be called the turn of the millennium. So, I think “turn of the century” will still be safe and recognizable.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

The context usually depends on how old the person using the phrase is. Your parents will mean 1899–1900. People younger than that mean 1999–2000

LC_Beta's avatar

In context I would understand that to mean what you intended. But, I agree that it’s one of those phrases that will become less and less clear. Already, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone refer to the 1900/2000 turnover as the “turn of the century”

tinyfaery's avatar

I am 35 and I consider the turn of the century to be 1900. I consider 2000 as the new millenium.

Pcrecords's avatar

Technically turn of the century refers to 1999/2000 but yes I know exactly what you mean. Like most language the term will begin to refer to this century once it’s embedded enough. When people start looking confused when you refer to details of the end of the 19th century you’ll soon adapt. Being British we tend to refer to the start of the 20th century as the end of the Victorian age.

fireside's avatar

I’d say “turn of the last century” – though I’m not sure it would make it any more clear that I was not referring to the “turn of this century”

Jeruba's avatar

I usually say “turn of the twentieth century” to avoid any ambiguity.

Ivan's avatar

I always thought that phrase was really stupid anyway. There have been approximately 1.37×10^8 centuries so far in this universe. Which one are you referring to?

whatthefluther's avatar

As time progresses, “turn of the century” will more and more be utilized to describe 1999/2000, so I would express other “turns” by explcit mention of the century number as @jeruba suggests. See ya…wtf

bpeoples's avatar

<nit picking>

2000 is still the 20th century and 2nd millennium.

No one was confused about this in 1901 when they rang in the new century. (No, really, I looked it up. Around new years 1900 there were no articles talking about “the new century”, around new years 1901, there were plenty. I think I was just looking at the NYT)

Anyway. 2001 = new century/millenium
2000 = last year of the 20th century/ 2nd millenium.

Thank you.
</nit picking>

Back to the question: I’ve found it slightly confusing at 29, and it will continue to be more and more.

ubersiren's avatar

@bpeoples : That actually bothers the crap out of me. I blame Prince.

Les's avatar

Excellent responses, all around.

And yes, I too blame Prince.

Darwin's avatar

I would qualify things: the turn of the 20th century or the turn of the 21st century. Nothing like being specific to avoid confusion.

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