I saw a post going around Facebook the other day which was really upsetting to see. It was supposed to be a joke. “You know, starting on January 1st, hindsight really WILL be 2020!” Please don’t say that. Please don’t make that joke. Not because it’s a bad joke, honestly it’s the kind of joke I’d probably make as well, with my horrible dad joke type humour, but look… I don’t think that means what you think it means.
I saw someone posit a theory recently that a lot of English speakers aren’t actually totally fluent in speaking English, due to the way they just sort of repeat phrases back and forth without actually knowing what the words they’re saying mean. Seeing this joke making the rounds definitely reinforces that idea to me. “Hindsight is 20/20” is something you’ve probably heard several times, but do you really know what it means? “Hindsight” is fairly easy, that’s just the idea of the clarity that comes with looking back on a situation after it’s over. The 20/20 part comes from the whole “sight” part of hindsight. Eyesight is measured on a scaling system, where 20/100 means you have to be 20 feet away from something to see it with the same clarity that someone with normal eyesight can see from 100 feet away. Therefore 20/20 is normal vision, or relatively clear vision.
So combining the two, we essentially get a saying that disparages the “woulda coulda shoulda” mindset. Don’t worry about how you should have acted in a situation. Don’t worry about what you could have done, or what you would do differently now. You have the gift of hindsight, and hindsight is 20/20. You can consider the situation from every eventuality now, but when it was happening, you made the best decision given the information you had at the time. Well it also has another meaning too. It could also essentially mean that something that was absolutely horrible in the moment might have actually been not nearly as bad as you thought, now that you have hindsight and understand more about it all.
So I think you can understand why I’m not super happy with everyone making this “joke.” At best, they’re saying “we sure could have acted smarter in 2020, but no sense dwelling on that,” and at worst they’re saying “you know, given the context we now have, of the future years, 2020 really wasn’t that bad,” which can only mean that future years are worse. I know it’s just a saying, and it’s just a dumb joke, but I really do wish people would think a little bit harder about what they’re saying before they say it, you know?