Sunday, August 17, 2014

Something You Ought To Know

Gather around, children, for today's lesson.  It's something you ought to know about aught.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was the turn of the century.  Amazing things happened:

1900: Kodak Introduces $1 Brownie Cameras: The Brownie camera was the first hand-held camera that was cheap enough and simple enough for even children to use, making photography accessible to the masses. (Now we take pictures with our's so simple even a child can do it. And in return, the masses have given us photographic proof of the weirdness of people )

1901: First Nobel Prizes Awarded: A pacifist at heart and an inventor by nature, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite. Not wanting to go down in history for creating such a deadly device, Nobel created a will that left the bulk of his fortune to the establishment of five prizes (physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace). On December 10, 1901, five years after Alfred Nobel's death, the first five Nobel Prizes were awarded. (No relation to the Darwin Awards, but still kind of important.)

1902: The Teddy Bear Is Introduced. (I couldn't imagine my life without my teddy bear.)

1903: Produced by Thomas Edison but directed and filmed by Edison Company employee Edwin S. Porter, the 12-minute-long silent film, The Great Train Robbery (1903), was the first narrative movie, one that told a story. The Great Train Robbery's popularity led directly to the opening up of permanent movie theaters and the possibility of a future film industry. (And that masterpiece led to such gems as Showgirls and Sex Lives of the Potato Men - and I'm happy to say I've avoided watching at least one of those.)

1904:  New York City Subway Opens (the city wouldn't be the same without it, would it?)

1905: Freud Publishes His Theory of Sexuality (I ain't touching that one with a ten-foot pole.)

1906: Kellogg's Starts Selling Corn Flakes (ever see The Road to Wellville?)

1907: First Electric Washing Machine (thank goodness we don't have to take the wash down to the river anymore!)

1908: Three Year-Old Pu Yi Becomes Emperor of China (proving that not only does a toddler rule the home, he can rule a country).

1909: Plastic Is Invented (and where would we be without plastic? I mean credit cards, of course.)

But something else happened, too.  It wasn't the 1880s or the 1890s anymore.  It was the 1900s now.  So a new word was needed to talk about the decade.  Okay, maybe not a new word (it's been around since 1821 at least), but one that probably didn't get used too often: aught. The aughts, plural :  the ten year period from 2000 through 2009, 1900 through 1909, etc. (Surprisingly enough, there are six other definitions for aught.)  

And now that we've gone through our own turn of the century, we get to revive the use of aught when we talk about those years between 2000 and 2009.  Can't you just hear some old-timey voice saying, "Back in aught eight, I danced in Beyonce's video for 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),' so I know how to dance, you pipsqueak."