Happy New Year everyone, and all the best for 2012. But how do you say 2012? It was still quite common to hear 'two thousand and eleven' during the past year, but it is my guess that you won't hear 'two thousand and twelve' very much this year. Instead, most people will say 'twenty twelve' - in the UK, anyway.
We tend to pronounce things in a way that 'sounds right'. And how are we to know that it's right? We get our cues mostly from what we hear. The BBC seems to have made the decision over a year ago to go for the 'twenty ten/eleven/twelve' pronunciation (although certainly last year a sizeable number of their guest interviewees said 'two thousand and eleven') and the BBC is a very influential organisation. Most of us have heard the phrase or slogan London 'Twenty Twelve' Olympics thousands of times over the last year or so, and are hearing it even more often now, so that, too, is ensuring that 'twenty twelve' just sounds more natural than 'two thousand and twelve'.
Indeed, one might wonder why we are having this discussion at all. We say without thinking 'ten sixty six' for 1066, and would say 'nineteen twelve' for 1912, never 'nineteen hundred and twelve' or 'one thousand nine hundred and twelve'. We always say 'eighteen-oh-one' and 'nineteen-oh-two', yet when we came to 2001, most people did not follow the previous pattern (twenty-oh-one) but said 'two thousand and one'. This is possibly because we were already familiar with the phrase 'two thousand and one' as a result of the very influential science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey (indeed, we'd had over thirty years to get used to the phrase as the film came out in 1968).
So, a Happy Twenty Twelve to everyone!