“That’s So… TwenCen”

A couple of weeks ago, on my way to work, my attention was caught by the SF Examiner‘s headline, about a local political scandal. It seemed like something out of The Front Page.

Alternative weeklies still seem to have a place (though I can’t put my finger on why), but I suddenly looked at the institution of the hard-copy, daily newspaper and thought of Clark Kent in the ’50s, of the heyday of printed journalism, and thought: “That’s so Twentieth-Century”.

Okay, not to toot my own horn, but I actually thought, “That’s so TwenCen” — a term I picked up from some sci-fi novel or other. I’m not really sure which one, but it was definitely not Gregory Benford’s The Sunburn, as cited in a WordReference forum post — I haven’t read that novel, so the term must be in use by at least one other sci-fi work. And of course, BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow has picked up on it (hell, it might be one of his books that introduced me to the term in the first place).

Which just shows that we really do need a term for “the Twentieth Century — viewed as an antiquated, passe and unfashionable time”. A few other possibilities:

  • That’s so… Twentieth.”
  • “That’s so last-century.”[1]
  • “That’s so last-millennium.”

I’m open to other suggestions. But for now, I think “TwenCen” has the right ring to it.

As an aside: Are we ever going to decide that “Fin-de-Siècle” now refers to the 1990s, instead of the 1890s? Or is that term too irretrievably tied to “the end of the Nineteenth Century”?

Newspapers — by which I mean those hard-copy news-dailies, printed up and waiting to be bought from newsstands on city street-corners — are so very TwenCen. And while we’re at it, so are phone books, both the Yellow Pages and the White Pages.

What are some other things that are desperately TwenCen?

[1] Update, Oct 31: This one is definitely a live usage within the tech field — it turns out that just two days after I posted this, Linus Torvalds used it in a Google+ post about laptop screen resolutions, saying, “I still don’t want big luggable laptops, but that 1366×768 is so last century.” ↑↑

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