Timeline Q&A

1900-24 1925-49 1950-74 1975-99
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I think the first question my visitors will have is, "With all the great art, film and literature of the 20th Century, why did you decide to fill your timeline with the absolutely lamest, most pathetic songs, movies and television shows you could find?"

Well, partly I did it just to be annoying. I'm hoping that with just a little nudge, you'll spend the rest of the day humming "You're Just Too Good to Be True" until you are driven mad.

More importantly, however, I actually made a deliberate effort to find the statistically most popular artworks of the 20th Century. Each television program listed here was (for a year at least) either the highest or second-highest rated in American Prime Time. Each movie is one of the 40 biggest money-makers of the century (adjusted for inflation). Each song was listed on either the BMI or ASCAP list of the 10 most played songs of the 20th Century.

Are these the best the century has to offer? Of course not, but in the mid-70s, while one or two of you were going to see Taxi Driver, the rest of the world was lining up for Grease. The Beverly Hillbillies has achieved syndicated immortality, while Sports Night sinks into the landfill of history. As long as elevators have awkward silences that need filling with light music, "Baby, I Need Your Lovin" will survive, and ultimately, unfortunately, outlive better songs.

Q: Why do some names have underscores ( _ ) beside them?

A: American names are fairly regular -- personal name first, middle name next, family name last -- so if you get tired of typing out "Ronald Wilson Reagan" every time you mention him, you can whittle him down to the very last element (Reagan) and everyone will still know who you're talking about. This works for all Americans -- well, unless you're dealing with Dick Van Dyke or Fiorello La Guardia or Cher -- but for everyone else, just take the last unit, stick a Mr. or Ms. in front, and you've got a perfectly functional form of address. Unfortunately, foreigners just toss their names together all willy-nilly. Is it Lloyd George his first or last name? Giscard or d'Estang? President Jiang or President Zemin? Senator Clinton or Senator Rodham? Japanese puts the key element first; Spanish puts it somewhere in the middle.

To help you figure this out, I've tagged un-American short forms with an underscore -- always at the beginning, and sometimes at the end (if it's followed by a slew of superfluous names and titles) If I haven't marked anything, then it's safe to reduce it to the very last name, or else I just forgot.

Q: Why are random words in the viceroys of India emboldened?

A: Because I'm inconsistent. That's the part you stick "Lord" in front of to make the short form.

Q: You know, to us "foreigners" (as you so rudely label us), it's the American names that sound stupid! Our names make perfect sense to us. There's nothing wrong with Mackenzie King as a last name.

A: Whatever. I prefer a good old hieroglyphic cartouche myself.

Selected Sources

Other (Outside) timelines that may be of interest:

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Last updated October 2001

Copyright © 2001 Matthew White