January 18th, 2000

Millenium Maddness

by Melissa Aronczyk • in Personal
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millennium maddness

Christmas being the overblown holiday that it is, with all those long-standing traditions to respect, presents to buy, carols to sing, trying family obligations, and turkey stuffing recipes at www.marthastewart.com, it has gotten harder and harder to fit all the seasonal rites and rituals into one holiday. To counter this impediment to maximum holiday enjoyment, the last few years have seen the rise of the Post-Christmas season, occurring just after the twelve days of Xmas on the Christian calendar (for those of you who want to pencil it into your millenary agendas) and lasting well into January.

Initially designed to catch the drippings of the season, Postmas has lately become a cherished occasion all its own, rife with happy moments to celebrate en famille or by yourself. It’s a time to observe the breaking of unreasonable New Year’s Resolutions, the guilt of over-consumption (both corporeal and corporal), the renewed vow never to see Uncle Lewis again, and of course, the discarding of trite Christmas cards from people you barely know.

Usually this last custom, observed on the afternoon of January 8, occupies a smallish role in Postmas festivities; but this year gave me pause. I have to confess that there was one card among the bunch of seasonal well-wishes I couldn’t bear to part with. The folks at Hallmark went all out this year, this being the turn of the century and all, and designed “Celebrate 2000″ cards to corner the niche; the one I received from my investment advisor had a particular resonance. Inside the gaily coloured rectangle, in embossed blue lettering, was scripted, “Happy Holidays, and Have a Nice Millenium!”

Its effect on me was two-fold. To begin with, it was the first time I had been wished “a nice millennium,” and trying to understand the implications of that statement left me somewhat bewildered. Equally puzzling, but sadly more commonplace, was the spelling of millennium with one “n”. How is this possible? It’s not as though the word were one of those dusty, near-obsolete terms found only in Scrabble dictionaries and Pynchon novels. We’ve heard the m-word so many times in the last few months we’re ready to shoot the next person who says it. Why, then, have so many picked the one-n road, for a spelling not to be found in any of the five dictionaries I consulted?

At first I guessed it was a Québec phenomenon, what with the French one-n’d “millenaire” in the works to confuse the English media. A trip to Toronto and a review of the American press proved otherwise. The milleNium was everywhere, from bookstores to restaurants, to advert banners proclaiming, “Huge Millenium Sales at Crazy Ed’s!!!” Those of you who picked up the Globe and Mail on January 1 will have noticed the front page, bearing the smiling face of a young Newfoundland girl upon whose festive hat is emblazoned, “Millenium 2000″.

A quick web survey using the search word “millenium” gives a withering choice of misspelled sites. Metacrawler blithely offers links to a Millenium Dome, a Millenium Bug, a Millenium Clock, a Millenium Party, a Millenium Countdown, and Millenium Celebrations. Then there are those poor souls who even registered product names without looking in the dictionary (an entire line of Millenium beauty products by a certain French cosmetics company comes to mind). Not only are we not sure if we have in fact arrived at the infamous event, we’re not even certain of how to write it down for posterity.

Of course, watching the heralding of the milleNium is no great surprise. The general demise of English orthography has been hastened along for some time now, gently prodded towards a linguistic free-for-all by advertisers, e-mailers, and a general lack of interest. Perhaps the time has come to abandon the stuffy old dictionary, with its narrow-minded adherence to a single spelling of words, and open ourselves up to creative communication possibilities. We must go with the flow, as they say, and when could be better than at the dawn of a new age?

To properly hail the milleNium, I advise we stop using double consonants entirely. It certainly would make things more eficient (les keys to hit when typing), and in any case, they’re not realy necesary. While we’re on the subject of unecesary leters, we may as wel eliminat silent e’s and other suprfluos vowels and redundant consonants. It wuld be relativly simpl to acomplish: just a slight tweak to spelchek softwar. And wat’s wrong with words like nite and e-z and kwik? Fonetic speling shur duz hav its plays in todays modrn world. So on with progres, I say. Welcum to 2000. And a Nice Milenium to al.

MilleNium: 3%
Postmas: 82%

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