Monday, February 17, 2014

Best of AM - What's In a Name?

I am going to take several days off and repost some of my favorite posts.  Today, I'm resting and celebrating - well, I'm not exactly sure what. Read on.

What's in a Name?

Today, in the United States, we are celebrating a holiday called....um, no one really knows.

When I was growing up, there was a holiday, Washington's Birthday, which was celebrated on - imagine that, his birthday. February 22. We'll ignore the fact that Washington actually was NOT born on February 22.  He was born on February 11, 1732, under the old Julian calendar.  When Britain switched over to the Gregorian calendar we now use, his birth date was renumbered.

(Can you imagine the chaos today, in our computer-driven world, if they renumbered the calendar?  More proof that our ancestors were more adaptable to change in some ways than we moderns are.)

February 22 became a Federal holiday in 1885. Washington's Birthday, honoring George Washington, our first President.  The beloved "Father of our Country." 

Well, that meant that sometimes the holiday could not be celebrated as a three day weekend.  We couldn't have that, could we?  In the early 1970's it was decided that Washington's birthday, and several other holidays that were celebrated on specific days, would be moved so we could have three day weekends.

So, this holiday was moved to the third Monday of February.  Ironically that also means it can never be celebrated on February 22.

After all these years, most people here no longer call the holiday "Washington's Birthday", although that is still its official name.  It is called either "Presidents' Day" or "President's Day". (Sometimes, Presidents Day with no comma.) And herein lies the power of a comma.

Presidents' Day:  honors all Presidents. President's Day: honors one President.  George Washington. Or maybe not always.

Adding to the confusion, states have passed their own laws specifying what the holiday is called, and the honoree(s) thereof.  Some states honor Washington.  Some states honor Washington and Lincoln (Lincoln was the Federal president during our Civil War 1861-1865). At least one Southern state honors Washington and another President, Thomas Jefferson, as most of the states that seceded during the Civil War still choose not to honor Lincoln in any way, 152 years after the fact.

So, if you are in the United States, happy....uh, whatever your state calls it.

And if you are not from the United States - does your country have something as confusing?

3 comments:

  1. I'm from the UK; I'm trying to think if England has anything along the lines of this....hmmm...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Funny! We're celebrating Family Day today in Canada. A relatively new holiday, but we like the idea behind it. We have a "Civic Holiday" in August that no one really seems to know anything about. Sometimes it's called Lord SImcoe day...

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's not a comma, it's an apostrophe. I admit, it looks like a comma up in the air, but once it's above the baseline it's an apostrophe, or possibly, a single quote.

    ReplyDelete

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