There is no word for 20 years

Chart with 20 years, 20 married, 20, 20 and the final 20 years

Measuring my life in chunks of 20 years

I’ve just realised that my marriage to the father of our children occupied one quarter of my 80 years on earth. Two of my eight decades of life.

I used to think about my life as a series of decades. Spending very (VERY) approximately  ten years each at being a child, being a teen, mothering, teaching, writing, teaching abroad, running a company, multi-media something-or-other…

But now I think about my life in chunks of 20 years. It’s a matter of perspective. I feel more solid and settled. And I like it. It seems almost orderly, almost as if I designed it that way. Yeah, right!

Of course I’ve been making up my life as I go along, like you. Making plans that morph into unexpected mini-careers. Enjoying every ride into the blue.

But I’m enjoying this temporary illusion of symmetry. It has taken me by surprise.

I wonder whether you have noticed a similar change in your perception of time and purpose as the years go by?

PS Is there a word for 20 years, similar to decade? If not, can you coin one for me please?

23 thoughts on “There is no word for 20 years

  1. auntyuta says:

    A new generation: After 20 years a ‘new’ generation might appear!
    When I was 80, there were already five generations of us . . .

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That would work in some contexts. But now our generations are closer to 30 years…

      1. auntyuta says:

        In our culture, yes, this is mostly true. So, is there a word for 30 years? Does it take 30 years till you are ready to marry, and does it take 30 years to raise your children?
        I was 30 when we first owned a house, and then I was 60 when we purchased a villa that we still live in now.
        I do not expect to live beyond 90!
        Actually, I think it would be nice to be in a coffin by 90. That may give me nearly five more years! 🙂

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        It’s mainly because women wait much longrr to have their first child. I like your positive approach.

      3. It appears to be a cultural thing – some moms here are still in high school while others are mid thirty’s. An assortment and variety of parent ages at school gatherings/sport games – it’s funny that they age groups think they have little in common ..until they start talking about diapers, and first day at school ( or when those used to happen)

      4. Rachel McAlpine says:

        You’re right, our ability to choose when to have our first child has many repercussions. The average age and median age tell us nothing. But motherhood is a leveler, for sure

  2. It’s a score, Rachel! Each twenty years, you can tote up the fabulous achievements of your wonderful, inspirational life,and say… yay SCORE!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s a very positive word, and I can count scores of mistakes as well!

  3. Sadje says:

    Very interesting way to look at life. A double decade is the only thing I can think of.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Perhaps twenty years have earned their right to require two words?

      1. Sadje says:

        Hmm…. nothing comes to my mind!

  4. LA says:


    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sounds appealing…

  5. The proper word is vicennium. But score is much nicer! Remember ‘Three score years and ten’?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I do indeed. One niggle– score doesn’t include years, it just means 20, not 20 years. So, I have lived four vicennia?

  6. I think it’s “score.” In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, he used it as meaning 20 years (“Four score and seven years ago…” = 87 years). I guess at the time it was a commonplace measurement of years (maybe just in the U.S.?). Perhaps it’s time to bring it back!

  7. jukkasoft says:

    Oh, boy. Finally great use for the book Mathematics – from Birth of Numbers, by Jan Gullberg. “score” for twenty.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Love the link and the etymology. But score does not mean twenty YEARS, huh? Is there a word for that, please?

  8. Ally Bean says:

    I think Janis may be right that it is called a score. I often think of my life in terms of 20 years, but hadn’t thought of that fact until now.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I never realized that score only meant 20 and not 20 years. I have always used it as “four score” without adding the years. No idea what a real word is for the time span.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Did you use it like this? “I have lived four score.” I’ve never heard that 🙂

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Yes. Proving I am probably being incorrect!

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        No, that explains why I have been confused.

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