INTRO: It's time for our weekly report from VOA's Wordmasters, Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble. Today Avi and Rosanne announce a contest about a "Y2K problem" -- not about computers, but about what to call the coming decade.
MUSIC: "Time Is On My Side"/Rolling Stones
AA: Time is on our side now, but just wait another year. I'm Avi Arditti.
RS: And I'm Rosanne Skirble. We talk about the sixties, the seventies, the eighties and the nineties.
AA: But what do we call the decade that's coming up?
TAPE: CUT ONE -- LEVINE/AA
LEVINE: "I don't know what you call it."
AA: "What would you call it?"
LEVINE: "Well, I would call it modified Julian day number fifty-one-thousand-something or other."
RS: That's Judah Levine. He's a physicist in the time and frequency division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
AA: When we got the idea for a "name the next decade" contest, we thought -- first let's see what an official timekeeper would say. It turns out that keepers of atomic clocks, like Judah Levine, don't think in the same terms that other people do.
RS: He tried to explain the standard of Julian days which timekeepers use -- and which had Avi and me confused in no time at all.
AA: But there's that bigger Y2K, meaning year 2000, problem to worry about. A lot of older computers may think next year is 1900, because of a programming quirk. So, as midnight approaches next new year's eve, Judah Levine and his fellow atomic timekeepers will be watching their clocks very closely.
RS: Zero Hour Universal Time on January first will come at five p-m local time on New Year's Eve in Colorado, where he works.
TAPE: CUT TWO -- LEVINE
"My guess is that on December thirty-first, all of us will be running around like crazy, making sure all of our services are doing the right thing. And at five p-m on December thirty-first, which is when our time scale rolls over, when Universal Time rolls over, we will be very, very busy indeed. By the time midnight comes it will be all over and we will have dealt with whatever is going to happen. Hopefully we will have fixed whatever problems exist and we get to go home."
AA: One last thing before we announce the details of our contest. We asked Judah Levine to predict what people will be calling the year two-thousand for short.
RS: You know, the way we say "ninety-nine" instead of nineteen-ninety-nine.
TAPE: CUT THREE -- LEVINE/AA/RS
LEVINE: "I think we're going to keep saying 'two-thousand' for awhile. But then after awhile we'll start calling it the year 'zero.'"
RS: "The year 'zero,' or 'zero-zero'?"
LEVINE: "[sigh] The year zero-zero, I suppose."
AA: "Followed by 'one.'"
LEVINE: "Followed by the year 'ought-one.'
RS: "So, over at the Nnational Institute of Standards and Technology, you just take one day at a time."
LEVINE: "We just take one day at a time, that's right."
AA: And now it's time to talk about our contest. We were thinking about this even before one of our listeners, Hassan Yosimbom at the University of Buea in Cameroon, wrote to say he finds it "disheartening" that we don't have competitions.
RS: Well, Hassan, here you go -- announcing the VOA Wordmaster Name the Next Decade Contest. It's simple. Just send us your suggestion for what to call the first ten years of the twenty-first century.
AA: Like the "oughts" -- as in "ought-one" or "ought-two" instead of "oh-one" or "oh-two." We've also seen the "ooze," the "uh-ohs," the "pre-teens," the "zippies" -- as in "zip," meaning zero -- and simply the "turn of the century" or the "first decade."
RS: Send us your idea by e-mail or by postal mail. And we've got a bagful of stuff to give away, ranging from VOA pens to some very nice VOA T-shirts.
AA: Everyone who sends us a suggestion will get something. But, the better your entry, the better the gift. The deadline is March second.
RS: If you reach us by e-mail, please be sure to include your postal address, so we know where to send your souvenir.
AA: We'll remind you of the contest again in the coming weeks. But we need to receive your entry by March second.
RS: With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.
MUSIC: "Time Is On My Side"/Irma Thomas