20th Century or 20th century??

Discussion in 'English Only' started by winterhawk, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. winterhawk Member

    English / Chicago, Illinois
    Good day!

    A quick, small question. Do we ever treat a specific century like a proper noun, i.e. capitalized "C" or is it unnecessary or perhaps are both possible? I suppose the same question could apply to the word "age" such as in "the digital age." "The Digital Age" or written in small letters? Do we say the "Stone Ages?"

    I'd appreciate any responses.
  2. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    According to the Chicago Manual of Style (15th Ed.), a sourcebook for American English, the rule is that particular centuries are spelled out and lowercased.

    twentieth century
    the eighth and ninth centuries
    the eighteen hundreds

    This might differ in BE style.

    Of course, there is also the movie company 20th Century Fox, for which the name is capitalized as a proper noun.

    Other style guides may offer differing viewpoints.
  3. gian_eagle

    gian_eagle Senior Member

    Peru - Castellano
    I agree, GenJen. The way to say it is 20th century.
  4. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    Hi ther, gian_eagle
    I don't think you are agreeing! genjen is saying that 20th is supposed to appear as a word, not a number.

    This is defintiley one of those prescripive / pointless rules, where we all used to be told not to use numerals in writing, but actually, we have to say "Why not?" since it is perfectly clear either way.

    Why worry?
  5. KittyCatty

    KittyCatty Senior Member

    English UK
    In essays I say, in the nineteenth century, in the twentieth century, but you would definitely say, this is like something out of the Dark Ages! you'd also say the Stone Age - note that you don't capitalise the T on 'the' unless it's at the start of the sentence... hope this helps. In writing too it is inadvisable to use numbers such as 20th century, we'd know what you meant, but it's just a convention of written english. xxx
  6. winterhawk Member

    English / Chicago, Illinois
    Quite honestly, I want to first start a new thread because where I'm writing is going to close shortly and I can't respond to all of your insightful comments now. What I want to now point out or ask about is that whereas I wrote a question regarding "the Stone Ages," the response said (and perhaps rightly so according to traditional usage) "the Stone Age." In the same sentence, however, was said "the Middle Ages" (I somehow, in my hurry here, cannot go back to the thread ((in the Internet-Cafe that I'm presently visiting), so please excuse my lack of back-references to the appropriate respondee names).

    So, the question in the question is something like, why do we say "the Middle Ages" but "the Stone Age?" My personal feeling and opinion is that most people consider that era or period of time to have been a single time, perhaps shorter than the more important (here's another imbedded question - how can we say more important), significant or simply dominant in terms of what survived, periods of time in evolution such as everything that happened after human creatures became Homo Sapien Sapien. I sometimes think that people look down on the "Stone Ages" (that's how I prefer to call it because we don't really know how long they were and outside of that, they were so long that we couldn't count anymore if we tried to), but that's actually what's so amazing about them. They were an incredibly important time in which the major thinking of basic survival techniques and methods were thought out and partially solved without electricity, metal tools, machines, etc. (um, um, no wonder it took a little bit longer to get other things based on those solutions started, etc.).

    If saying that a period of time was only an "age" (betoking derision) then I prefer to, whatever the historical period of time it is that we're talking about, say "ages." They want to turn the lights off, so I better cut out now.

    I'll try to make it shorter next time - thanks!
  7. gian_eagle

    gian_eagle Senior Member

    Peru - Castellano
    Oh well, what I meant is that 20th century is with lower cases. I think either 20th or twentieth is correct. In google "20th century" has 82,100,000 entries and most of them are not related to 20th Century Fox.
  8. Momo12 New Member

    English - North American
    I know this thread is nearly ten years old, but I can't help but to answer your question anyway. At least, to the best of my knowledge. I myself, have come across this problem. Though my problem, may be a slight bit more complicated than yours. In regards to whether you ever: "treat a specific century like a proper noun" or not I believe the only time that you would treat a specific century as a noun and; therefore, capitalize it. Is when the century is part of a name. For example, (and this is the problem I've run into) I wrote a sentence which read: "It is just a simple bi-product of my Brain thinking like the: 'Fifth-Century BCE Greek Philosopher Plato.'" Now... I could be incorrect; but I believe I am, in fact, correct. Then again, perhaps
    "fifth century BCE" isn't a part of the name title. Maybe the proper title would simply be "The Greek Philosopher: 'Plato.'" Maybe even just "Plato." I'm not 100 percent fully sure, so I wouldn't take my word for it. In fact, now that I reread my post and edit it, I'd say disregard everything I said up till the second part of properly capitalizing and naming Plato. I'm trying to figure it out myself to be honest. I am writing something I believe in; and therefor, I like to sound somewhat intellectual. The problem is, grammar kind of... escapes me. Or at least, punctuation does. I'm decent at spelling and I can, for the most part, put sentences together in a "pleasing" manner; however, I am no english grammarist. If you couldn't tell by now. Anyway, I hope my information helped at least someone. Even if it didn't help the original poster. I apologize for the length of my response, and my rambling on. I feel I need to fully explain things, in order for people to fully understand me and get the most out of what I say.
  9. london calling Senior Member

    "It is just a simple bi-product of my Brain thinking like the: 'Fifth-Century BCE Greek Philosopher Plato.' "

    In my opinion:

    "It is just a simple biproduct of my brain thinking like the fifth-century BCE Greek philosopher Plato."

    I am assuming that 'the fifth-century Greek philosopher Plato' is not the title of an article or an essay, although that is what your punctuation suggests.

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