An easy how-to guide
There is a Hilton hotel in lower Manhattan, right across the way from the newer and bigger and shinier World Trade Center skyscrapers, and just across from Ground Zero. I used to walk past it every single day, and one day I noticed something horrible. The hotel’s name is misspelled. Or rather, the hotel deliberately removed an ‘n’ from the word ‘millennium’ and it doesn’t even look wrong to most people. According to a very prescient piece by Joanna Glasner in Wired:
The building’s current name dates back to the early 1990s, she said, when the its former owner deliberately chose to spell “Millenium” with a single “n.”
At the time, he was well aware that the spelling was wrong, and that millennium should be written with two Ns, Hall said. However, he figured the small aberration in nomenclature would make the hotel stand out from the crowd.
Wow, what a bad idea, except I have to hand it to him because I guess it worked; I noticed! The problem is that most people don’t. Glasner goes on to name-check a bunch of other businesses nearby that use and misspell the word, probably none of which are still there or open because this piece was published in December of 2000.
What is it about this word that gets us every time? Glasner cites journalists, of all culprits, an old version of Microsoft Word’s spellcheck, and the spelling of the word in foreign languages like Spanish. She adds:
There’s also the well-documented fact that the pursuit of accurate spelling has historically been ridden with failure.
Nice try, Joanna, but every pursuit on earth is historically ridden with failure—most things don’t work out. But right now, we’re in the midst of the Summer Olympics, and thanks to NBC’s prime-time broadcasting, I’ve caught the fever of American exceptionalism. I would like to implore journalists everywhere to do better. Don’t settle for failure—spell this goddamn word correctly; it’s not that hard. Here are some tips:
Step 1: Don’t use it.
Step 2: If you must, remember there are two ‘n’s.
Step 3: I don’t care if you didn’t take Latin, you KNOW that the word comes from mille for thousand and annus for year, I mean just THINK about it. It’s the same as perennial or annual or anniversary or centennial or biennale.
Step 4: TWO ‘N’S!!!!!!!!!!
Step 5: Please like and share this post. Thank you.