Friday, January 10, 2020

2020: Both A Number And A Word.

Colorful 3D numbers for 2020Every year at this time we begin a new year and usually it’s just the next number and that’s that. But, as we approached this particular New Year, it occurred to me that 2020 has connotations beyond the numerical sequence and it seems to be unique in this matter. Think of any other year, let’s say 1972 or 2010, and you may place it into a timeline in your head, but it does not mean anything beyond being a number. This is not the case with 2020; it has numerous other uses that have nothing to do with the passage of time. Even if most of the time these other uses are written as 20/20 instead of 2020. 2020 is even in the dictionary, a place for words, not numbers.

A Snellen eye chart against a grey paneled wallThe most common usage of 2020 is related to vision. In an effort to measure normal and diagnose abnormal eyesight, the Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen developed a chart back in 1862. We are all familiar with the Snellen chart – it is the one with rows of letters that change from large at the top to small at the bottom. Using his metrics and chart, 20/20 is the measurement for normal visual acuity (the sharpness or clarity of vision). Using a baseline of 20 feet, the designation of 20/20 means that a person with normal visual acuity can see clearly at 20 feet what should be seen clearly at that distance.

A cartoon of 2 dogs looking at a chart on the wall.
The second most common usage of 2020 is again about sight, but only semantically. “Hindsight is 20/20” is a pretty common phrase that refers to the clarity a person has about a past decision. It’s rather like Monday morning quarterbacking. But, where this phrase came from is a mystery. It seems like it must have somehow grown out of the Snellen chart due to the sight connection, but there really is nothing to verify this. How it became so widely used is also puzzling, especially when you consider that is was first noted in just 1962 as “the newest expression in the US air transport business”.

A black and white photo of Jazz Saxophonist Dexter Gordon. He is smoking and holding his saxophone.
Dexter Gordon, Jazz Saxophonist
The hindsight phrase has held its standing over the decades but there have been other 2020 usages over the years that have emerged and then faded away. For instance, by the mid-1940s, 2020 was used as an adjective for something or someone that was excellent or good-looking. But, this term was contained within the relatively small community of jazz musicians in Harlem, New York. They were known for their colorful jive talk and this was part of it, but as that insular community broke up over the years, their singular language faded away as well.

A view of a blue sky and clouds with beams of light and wings shining down. Angel portal.
The Urban Dictionary and the Urban Thesaurus both claim to have modern slang uses for 2020, but I am suspicious of their validity. You can check out their pages and decide for yourself.

There is something about the symmetry of 2020 that makes it appealing for use in many different ways. Apparently even angels are
attracted to it. According to the dogma of Numerology and Tarot, numbers have vibrational qualities that transcend our physical realm. These vibrations work in a higher plain, in a place where angels dwell. Our higher consciousness can also reach this realm, so when angels want to communicate with us they often send messages in numbers. These are aptly called Angel Numbers. So, when a particular number repeatedly reappears in a person’s life, angels are attempting to make contact. The Angel Number 2020 appears to be a have a positive message – a celestial “way to go, you got this, keep up the good work” kind of thing. It remains unclear to me how a person can tell that an angel is calling 2020 when that number is the current year and it appears on virtually everything.

A drawing of a green-skinned being wearing a cone-shaped hat and robes and holding a large weapon.
In the fantasy world of the online roleplaying game Guild Wars, 20/20 refers to a type of weapon.These 20/20 weapons have specific (and apparently awesome) capabilities that I’m not even going to try to understand enough to describe here. If you want to know more, here is a page to get you going.
The cover for Justin Timberlake's album called The 20/20 Experience. It is black and white with gold lettering and he is standing behind eye testing equipment.

There is a nationwide coalition of African-American community leaders called the 2020 Club (or the Bipartisan Justice Center). This organization began with 20 Republican and 20 Democrats (hence the name) and is dedicated to finding and implementing positive change in the criminal justice system.

Then there is Justin Timberlake: He put out an album in 2013 titled “The 20/20 Experience”. According to this article, he had said the title refers to “20 songs in 20 days”, but then debunks himself and says it means “music you can see”. And then he has ophthalmological equipment as the cover image. Whatever….

A bare-chested young man in a black hat saying, "Hindsight is always 20/20".

Here’s to an exceptional year in 2020 – better and happier in all the ways that matter most.

Submitted by Pam

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