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Year X

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And the previous year was 200X.

"Why is it always X? It's like they couldn't come up with an exact year, so just make it X."

Setting is important in storytelling, especially when you want to tell what time period that story takes place in. The easiest way to do this is to simply state what year the story takes place in... However, being too exact may sometimes narrow down flexibility. So in order to pinpoint the time and keep it vague at the same time, writers like to give the century number, but replace the year and decade with X.

For example: 20XX. You know this takes place after the millennium, but when after the millennium? 2097? 2030? December 21, 2012? We don't know, and that's the beauty of it.

It also renders the setting somewhat resistant to the flow of Real Life time, since Real Life will take longer to cross that date and make fans start wondering why the future doesn't look anything like fiction depicted it. Of course, as the list below shows, years like 199X and 200X have been used and passed, and even 20XX will pass eventually. Inevitably, Time Marches On.

Commonly seen in Science Fiction, but not limited to it. It is for example popular in older English literature as well, sometimes to add an air of realism to stories, as if to protect the characters' identities. Note that older examples such as Frankenstein or Treasure Island use — instead of X to denote the uncertain years: Both of the above works are set in "17—".

Not to be confused with Exty Years from Publication, which is about future dates or intervals being nice round numbers, often based on the work's own release date. Compare Spell My Name with a Blank, which is similar but with names or locations. Related to Let X Be the Unknown.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Afterschool Charisma, main protagonist Shiro Kamiya was born in 2XXX.
  • Crystal Triangle is set in the year 198X. The funny thing about this is that the OVA was made in 1987. They were really hopeful for those next two years.
  • Digimon Fusion starts in 20XX.
  • Parodied in Excel♡Saga during its Fist of the North Star parody episode, which begins with an announcer starting to declare the year as 199X before he's interrupted by a chorus of people telling him that "199X" has already come and gone (it was already 2000 when the episode first aired). The next time the announcer states the year, he retcons it to "The year 2000...X!"
  • Fairy Tail: The story takes place in "X784". X791 after the first Time Skip, and X792 after the second.
  • Fist of the North Star is set a few years after a nuclear war destroyed the world in "199X". Series protagonist Kenshiro was born in the similarly vague year 197X.
  • Future Diary's dates are all shown in the form "29 JULY 20XX".
  • Ichigeki Sacchu!! Hoihoi-san is set in the year 20XX.
  • Initial D is set in 199X. Its successor MF Ghost is set in 202X.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, the year is revealed to be 20XX on Nikaidou's New Year's postcard. Averted in the anime, where it's indicated to be 2007 and 2008 via background calendars.
  • New Mazinger: The action in this Mazinger Z spin-off begins in 220X.
  • Orange Marmalade starts in "Autumn, 20XX".
  • Gerald Robotnik's 50+ year old diary from Sonic X is dated to "20XX".
  • Spider-Man J takes place in the year 200X.
  • Wangan Midnight is set in the year 20XX to allow for the introduction of newer cars that at the time of the first publishing (1992) did not exist.
  • In Yuri is My Job!, the results for the Blume election were tallied on "May XX, 20XX." Somewhat unusually, even the day of the month is Xed out (although it's probably some time after Golden Week). Eventually, it's revealed that the year is 2017; Mitsuki was born on July 7, 2001 and turns 16 in Volume 6, with the date in question being shown as a Friday.
  • Zero In is set in 20XX.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: The 2015 mini-series Ultron Forever introduced a Captain America from the year 20XX. This same future is sometimes seen in Al Ewing's other Avengers titles, with Cap seen fighting the Golden Skull. This trope is used presumably to ensure the sliding timescale never actually reaches the given date of 20XX (though given this Cap's an adult Danielle Cage, who was an infant in the modern day when the series was released, it logically takes place around twenty-plus years later).
  • The Image Comics Crapsack World Feudal Future series Lazarus is built entirely around this trope, with "Year X" having been the year that mega-corporations swooped in and took advantage of global political instability to divide the entire world up among themselves. The book begins in X+64, and as of the new Risen arc, has reached X+68.
  • Atomic Robo: Jenkins's tombstone gives his birth and death years as 19XX-20XX. Oddly enough the latter is pinned down as 2020 elsewhere on the website.

    Fan Works 
  • FURTHERFELL: The Sins of the Father branch takes place in the year X022. As the event that instigated the plot of Undertale (and Underfell by extension) happened in 201X, this helps emphasize that it's been a long time since any familiar characters were around.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, the setting's year is referred to as 20XX. All Might's car was only manufactured in 198X and the old Beebo cartoon ran in the 19XXs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Invasion of Astro-Monster took place in 196X.
  • The Last Days of Disco was set in "the very early 1980s."
  • Time Changer: When someone from the 1890's travels over 100 years into the future and looks at the newspaper, the last two years of 20XX were obscured. When he yells the date out loud, the 20XX gets cut off by a car honk. Later, at the end of the movie, an attempt is made to send a bible to the future but it will not go if the end of the world already happened by then, so the date keeps being changed to earlier years to see when the end of the world takes place, and the movie cuts off somewhere in the 2000s.

    Literature 
  • The first Bony novel, The Barrakee Mystery, is set in the late 1920s. The narration avoids mentioning a specific year, and a letter is dated "August 12th, 19—". (However, the first sentence of the letter refers to the events of "Saturday, March 5th", which pins it to 1927.)
  • In the Brazilian classic Captains of the Sands, the only temporal reference is the death of protagonist Pedro Bala's father, said to have been killed during the 191... strike.
  • The opening sentence of The Courts of the Morning gives the date as "the August of 192-".
  • In Frankenstein, in Robert Walton's letters to his sister, the date is given as "Dec. 11th, 17—," making this trope at least Older Than Radio.
  • Gate begins in summer of the year 20XX.
  • "The Hound (1924)": Some days into getting haunted by the Dutchman, the narrator gives the date as "the night of September 24, 19—".
  • Life, the Universe and Everything: Ford and Arthur time travel from the prehistoric past to the year 198—.
  • John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse" sets the date as 19__. This is after giving the main character's home as B____ Street in the town of D____, Maryland, then lampshading it, then lampshading that a young protagonist would be Genre Savvy enough to point this out. This is Postmodernism after all.
  • The Filipino novel Nínay literally opens with the sentence: "In 18… the cholera wrought havoc in Manila."
  • Kim Newman's "Richard Jeperson" stories (part of the Diogenes Club series) are all mostly set in the 1970s, but are fairly ambiguous as to the precise setting (although careful reading can give a few clues as to roughly when each one is set), and every time a specific year is mentioned it is presented to the reader as 197- (or 195-, in the case of the flashback in "The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train").
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde happens in 18**.
  • Treasure Island takes place "in the year of grace 17—." (Various clues in the text narrow it down to somewhere between 1758-65.)
  • Vanity Fair often refers to dates in 18—.
  • Wylder's Hand has a variation in a scene where Larkin is laying out the key dates in the mystery of Mark Wylder's whereabouts. These cover a range from October of one year to March of the following year, preventing a graceful way of using the traditional "18—", so the narrator assigns them to the years 1854 and 1855 while making it clear that these are not the actual years in question. (Elsewhere, he says that over twenty years have passed since the events of the novel, placing them in the 1840s or even earlier.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "The End of the World" takes place in "5.5/Apple/26", although this may be another term for exactly 5 billion years after the characters had left.
  • Power Rangers RPM was set in 20XX (between late 2040 and 2096).
  • The Pretender: In "Toy Surprise", when Miss Parker visits her mother's grave, the shot of the headstone is framed so that the last two digits of the death date are obscured by a floral tribute placed on the grave earlier.
  • Servant of the People features a subtle version of this, with a small poster that has the year on it, but the part with the last digit is torn off. The show is basically set in 201X.

    Music 
  • The Protomen open their story in 200X. The second act, a flashback, is set in 197X. Of course, it's a Mega Man (Classic) rock opera, so obviously it would be set in the same timeframe as the games.

    Radio 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Halt Evil Doer!, the Near-Future Dystopia (think Marvel 2099) is sometimes referred to as taking place in 20XX. Sometimes heroes from the present might learn the actual year, but then they return to the present and change things, and it's XX again. Similarly, the Future of Wonders (think Legion of Super-Heroes) is sometimes called 2XXX.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation often redacts dates, but sometimes the century or decade is left uncensored, leading to a similar effect but with Censor Boxes instead of X's.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • In the Philippines the colloquial phrase "19-kopong-kopong" generally indicates "a long time ago." Precisely when is usually unspecified, but some online sources will make a more specific case by pointing out that kopong is an Old Tagalog word for "zero", hence, the year 1900.

    The Scottish phrase "nineteen oatcake" (or sometimes "nineteen canteen") means much the same thing. The non-number words seem intended to create the sound of "190X" or "191X".

    In Brazil there is a similar phrase, "mil novecentos e guaraná com rolha", roughly "19-soda with a cork".
  • The Extended Date Time Format used by the Library of Congress uses X to denote unspecified digits. The 2019 revision of the international standard ISO 8601 incorporates the same notation.
  • With X being the Roman numeral for 10, and XX meaning 20, people on the internet in 2020 sometimes joked (especially at the start and end of that year) that 2020 is the only year one could say it's 20XX and could be considered right, and yet not because of the vagueness 20XX is supposed to convey.

Alternative Title(s): Twenty Exty Six

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