Tranquil — naturally
About two years ago, I began seeing a holistically oriented doctor. His practice was based on prevention and alleviation of ailments through natural methods. Low stress levels were important to good health, he believed.
In the waiting room of his office on my first visit, with nothing to do as I sat in a cushiony chair, I glanced up and to my right at a picture decorating the wall (I don’t remember what it was). Just inside the frame, at the bottom, was this word: Tranquility.
My blood pressure spiked as my obsessive-compulsiveness kicked in. Tranquil I was not. Jerk that I was, I joked to the doc that his wall decoration triggered anxiety in me. He was not amused. Uptight guy.
Give me an “l”
The inscription in the picture was a “word” only in a loose sense. The correct spelling is “tranquillity.” It has two l’s. Oh, sure, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and I suppose others as time has passed, allows for “tranquility” as a second spelling. It seems as though that dictionary allows any incorrect spelling or meaning of a word to become standard if a half-dozen people have used it that way. But if you write for a magazine or newspaper of much reputation, departures from traditionally accepted spellings are incorrect – or used to be. Standards have declined. At a paper I worked for many years ago, if you misspelled a word, the dyspeptic city editor would yell your name through the huge newsroom, which meant you were summoned to his desk, where he snarlingly asked you how the word was spelled (if you knew, you would have spelled it that way). It mattered not that you were on a tight deadline and didn’t have time to look it up.
Wrong speling — uh, spelling
As a matter of fact, based on an experience I had as a school boy, I would guess most teachers instruct that the preferred spelling is the only correct one. In my seventh-grade class, Miss Orwick tested we pupils (no, they’re not “students” until high school, at least) for spelling on a list of 25 words Friday of each week. Entering the test on the 36th and final week of the school year, I had a perfect record – not a single misspelling. I took the test and received the results the following week. My record was intact as my eyes ran down the words – until the last word, where a crimson check mark jumped out at me. I had misspelled the final word in the final test: theater. I spelled it “theatre.” I checked the dictionary and protested to Miss Orwick that “theatre” was given as a second spelling. But second spellings are not acceptable, she gently told me. I had spelled it the British way.
Lots of l’s
Home, sweet, tranquil home
If you’ve been spelling tranquillity with one l, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. Rarely have I seen it spelled correctly, but I’ve seen it spelled incorrectly time and again. The most recent instance was a cutline under a Palm Beach Post photo of a lush pool setting in a condominium complex: “Beaches, golf, tranquility attract homeowners.”
That’s love — one “l”
Okay, I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. I am, in fact, the epitome of tranquillity. Hmmm. I wonder if that second glass of wine has anything to do with it.