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I've been plagued with a problem for years. With the coming of the Internet I thought I might be spared the anger and bitterness, but no answer has yet been found. Please help. What are the six flags of amusement-park fame that have flown over Texas?

--David Sauerwein, Durham, New Hampshire

It's such a relief to get back to the truly basic questions of life. I mean, who cares if the earth gets destroyed by aliens? At least we won't have to pay real estate taxes. But the six flags--I knew I could die happy once I learned what they were, and now you can too. Just tell me where to send the lilies.

1. France. Robert Cavelier, Lord de La Salle, established a colony at Matagorda Bay on the gulf coast in 1685. This was a bit of a fiasco--by 1688 everyone, including La Salle, had been killed or captured. But Bob had been authorized by Louis XIV of France, and one presumes he brought a flag with him.

2. Spain. Spain had established effective control over Texas by the early 1700s with its HQ in San Antonio.

3. Mexico. Mexico, including Texas, became independent of Spain in 1821.

4. Republic of Texas. Texans declared independence in 1836. Alamo, Sam Houston, etc.

5. United States of America. Annexed in 1845.

6. Confederate States of America. Seceded from U.S. in 1861. Unfortunate events ensued. Readmitted in 1869.

There you go, six flags. But then a nagging thought: what about Six Flags Over Mid-America near Saint Louis? Possibly they were counting that 1944 Saint Louis Browns pennant, but one suspects the truth is Two Flags Over Mid-America didn't have the same ring. For the record, the nice lady in Saint Louis informs me that the six Mid-America flags are Spain, Britain, France, USA, Missouri, and Illinois. Spain, Britain, and Missouri are a stretch, but Illinois? I don't think so. To forestall embarrassing inquiries the park was recently given the more accurate, but more meaningless, name Six Flags Saint Louis.

NAMING THE COMING DECADE: STILL FLAILING

This begs the question of how to refer to 2000-2009 as a unit, but there is a cool way to reference the individual years [September 20]. In the novels of Patrick O'Brian, the characters refer to dates in the early 1800s as "the year zero," "the year three," etc. This has a certain ring to it. I am certain O'Brian's references are historically correct in all respects because I have heard him speak on NPR. No one with an Oxbridge accent like his could be wrong about anything.

--Yr ob'd't servant, David Light, via the Internet

The puzzle of how to refer to the opening years of the next century is pretty easy. Just look to the metric system, specifically the K in kilo. Piece of cake to write checks--September 21, 2K (or KK), for instance. Later in the century just add another digit, 2K7 for 2007. A graduate would be class of 2K, 2K1, 2K2, etc. [Further mildly amusing speculation deleted.] However, the ones who will enjoy this system most are conservative southerners, because 1,004 years from now will be the year KKK.

--Mikey, via the Internet

The natural name to me would be "the singles."

--Julian Ross Braver, Honolulu

Perhaps a reason why the first decade should remain nameless can be found in the old Hawaiian custom of waiting until a baby reaches one year before celebrating the event. One hesitates to assign a name too early as it may put an unwanted spin on all that follows. By leaving that first decade unnamed, do we not foster the hope of a Wondrous Age to come? --Guy Archer, Honolulu

Maybe, but I've pretty much given up hope of a Wondrous Name. The Ks? The year zero? Come on.

--CECIL ADAMS

Is there something you need to get straight? Cecil Adams can deliver the Straight Dope on any topic. Write Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611; E-mail him at cecil@chireader.com; or visit the Straight Dope area at America Online, keyword: Straight Dope.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Slug Signorino.

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