April 10, 2002
Why I Will Never Buy A Millenia

I'm sure the Mazda Millenia is a fine automobile, but the name really bugs me.

Lots of people have made fun of Mazda for not knowing how to spell 'millennia', and a Google search shows that lots of other people now spell the word for 'thousands of years' with one 'n' instead of the traditional two.

There is a better reason than mere pedantry, or a reactionary attachment to good spelling, to despise the name Millenia. It is not an attested Latin word, but if it were it would be quite crude.

In Latin as in English, two-n millennia means 'thousands of years'. Just as media is the plural of medium and data of datum, millennia is the plural of millennium, 'a period of a thousand years'. That in turn is a compound of mille anni, where mille means 'one thousand' and anni means 'years'. Just as 'alumni' is the plural of 'alumnus', anni is the plural of annus, 'year'. All very straightforward.

Unfortunately, Latin one-n anus means just what it looks like it means. The plural is ani, and a thousand of them (not something most of us care to contemplate) would be mille ani. If there were such a Latin word as one-n millenium, its plural would be millenia, just like the car, and would almost inevitably mean 'thousands of a**holes'. Reason enough for this Latin teacher not to want to own one.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 10, 2002 11:50 PM