A Millennium Miscellany
Time Magazine reported that millennium is not only one of the most overused words of the year, but one of the most frequently misspelled. In 1999, newspapers and magazines left out the second n in the word at least 4,709 times.
Sick to death of the word millennium? Be the first in your crowd to switch to the little used synonym, chiliad, (pronounced kill-ee-ad) as in, "all this crass chiliastic hype is getting to me," or "technically, this chiliad doesn't end until 2001." That's chiliad with one l.
Wherefore Art Thou Y2K?
The second most overused word of the year was virtually unheard of before 1999. The term Y2K was actually coined more than five years ago, according to Slate magazine. In fact, Slate identifies the exact moment of its creation: an email sent on Monday, June 12, 1995, at 11:31 p.m. The inventor was not some high-strung teen-age computer geek as some of us might assume, but a distinguished looking 52-year-old computer consultant from Massachusetts. As Y2K's creator David Eddy told Slate, "People were calling it Year 2000, CDC [Century Date Change], Faddle [Faulty Date Logic]. There were other contenders. [Y2K] just came off my fingertips." See the Slate article, which offers an exhaustive exegesis of the term.
First NASA Loses the Mars Lander, Now It Delays the Millennium
According to the physics magazine CERN Courier, in order to launch Cassini-Huygens space vehicle on its seven-year journey to Saturn, NASA had to perform a slingshot maneuver last August that caused the Earth's orbit to slow by about one-millionth of one-millionth of a second. As a consequence, there will a corresponding delay in the arrival of the new year. Reset your atomic clocks accordingly.
Amid the spangled Y2K tee-shirts and other millennium novelties, two creations have distinguished themselves as the very best examples of shameless marketing and worthless gimmickry:
Twentieth Century Dinosaurs
The term twentieth century has stood for progress, modernity, and the state-of-the-art, but it will soon become synonymous with the previous century. To dissociate themselves with such passé mustiness, a number of innovative companies will be keeping up with the times by having a name change. Twentieth Century Industries in Woodland Hills, Calif., for example, will change its name on Jan. 1 to the Twenty-first Century Insurance Group. According to the New York Times, however, at least one company is insisting that its temporal name has a timelessness about it: Twentieth Century-Fox film and TV studios has announced, "there is no chance of our changing such a well-known and respected name. If it was good enough for the 20th century, it is good enough for the 21st."