When referring to the nineties (or decades in general), we say:
- Die neunziger Jahre
- Die Neunzigerjahre
- Die Neunziger
My question is, where did the "er" come from?
If the "neunzig" used here is an adjective, shouldn't the declension ending be "en"?
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'Die Neunziger' is short (an ellipse) for 'die neunziger Jahre', dropping the 'Jahre' for brevity.
If you are talking about numbers and refer to exact instances of the number 90 in a table etc., it is 'die Neunzig' and plural 'die Neunzigen'. If you refer to numbers in the range from 90 (inclusive) to 100 (exclusive), it's 'die Neunziger' which refers to a range similar to when you say "Die neunziger (Jahre)" which is also a range of years.
As such the usual usage will always 'die Neunziger' or 'die neunziger Jahre' as 'die Neunzigen' is not sensible usage when refering to years or time in general.