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What's annoying me these days?  The forgotten meaning of the word "anniversary" and the passing of the ordinal number. I am getting extremely tired of hearing people on television -- entertainment programming, reality shows, the news  -- talk about the "x-year anniversary" of something. It shows that nobody knows Latin any more.

It may be uber-curmudgeonly of me to do this, but here's my detailed takedown of the practice.  Come with me below the great orange schnecken:

From the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymology of the word:

Etymology:  < Latin anniversāri-us returning yearly, < ann-us year + vers-us turned, a turning + -āri-us: see -ary suffix1. Compare advers-ārius, < advers-us. Used in medieval Latin subst. as anniversāria (sc. dies), and anniversārium, both ecclesiastical terms, whence also the subst. use is the earliest in English. Compare French anniversaire.
Yes, year.  It can be used as an adjective (which nobody does any more)
1552   R. Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum,   Annyuersary, or that which yerlye runneth at one tyme, Anniversarius.
1591   G. Fletcher Of Russe Common Wealth xxi. f. 87,   This day (which they keep anniuersarie).
1665   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 1 110   Of Periodical and Anniversary Winds and their Causes.
1696   J. Aubrey Misc. (1721) 7   On that day Anniversary his Father and Mother died.
1712   J. Addison Spectator No. 433. ¶4   This Anniversary Carnival, which lasted about a Week.
1858   N. Wiseman Recoll. Last Four Popes 403   Commemorated by anniversary festivities
or a noun (much more common)
c1230  (1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Corpus Cambr.) (1962) 15   In aniuersaries of ower leoueste freond.
1482   Caxton Chron. Eng. ccxlvi. 311   Ones in the yere at his annyuersarye his terement to be holden in the moost honest wyse.
1561   J. Veron Huntynge of Purgatorye f. 25,   Yeares minds other wyse called anniversaries.
1660   R. Coke Elem. Power & Subj. 157 in Justice Vindic.,   The day we have appointed, viz. the Anniversary of S. John Baptist beheaded.
1695   N. Luttrell Diary in Brief Hist. Relation State Affairs (1857) III. 460   This being the anniversary of King Williams coronation.
1860   Sat. Rev. No. 249. 136/1   Wear orange ribbons on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
So we've established.  YEAR.  Admittedly, there has been slippage. defines anniversary thus:
: the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event; broadly : a date that follows such an event by a specified period of time measured in units other than years <the 6-month anniversary of the accident>
Merriam-Webster provides example of usage, though, and these introduce the other part of my problem:
Examples of ANNIVERSARY:
    the anniversary of the invasion
    The exhibit will close on the 100th anniversary of the artist's death.
100th.  You remember ordinal numbers, yes? First, second, third, fourth, tenth, twenty-fifth, fiftieth.   Not any more.

Some people you'd expect it from. Perez Hilton:

Happy One-Year Wedding Anniversary, William And Kate!
The crew at
t's time to break out your silly hats again... 'cause today marks the one-year anniversary of Prince William and the Kate Middleton's televised marriage.
But nwspapers?  Here's the Washington Post:
The one year anniversary of the death of bin Laden, shot in his compound in a daring raid inside Pakistan, by the “go” order of President Obama, is once again becoming an occasion to attempt to justify torture.
The Miami Herald:
Kate and Will’s one year anniversary a veddy special occasion
Even the White House.  THIS White House:
One Year Anniversary Recovery Act Map
So I wondered, does this happen for anything beside the first year?

From The Weekly Standard

Today marks the 2-year anniversary of the Democratically controlled House’s passage of Obamacare (without a single Republican vote).
From the Village Voice
Canal Room Three-Year Anniversary Party
Monday marks the five-year anniversary of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 victims and the gunman dead.
From ABC News
ABC News to Honor the Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11 with Special Coverage Across All Broadcasts and Platforms.
You get the idea.

It's probably the slippery slope from the 6-month anniversary of the accident; if it works for months (which it doesn't - the six-month year-turning?  It's like the the[La] tar[Brea] tar pits in Los Angeles) it might as well work for years too. Which would be fine if anniversary didn't mean what it means.  

But I suppose the language has changed. I don't have to like it, though.

Originally posted to Cranky Grammarians on Thu May 10, 2012 at 06:19 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  FIRST anniversary, please (13+ / 0-)

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon May 07, 2012 at 09:44:25 PM PDT

  •  I am disappointment with you're grammer (3+ / 0-)

    With the advent of new social medias (twitter, texting, the Internet) grammar, word usage and the creation of new words are happening on a daily basis - what used to take years now happens almost immediately. I think all we can do now is ride the tide and try to adapt, instead of driving ourselves too nuts about what's going on.

    So yes, u can haz cheezburger.

    Romney 2012 - My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball. But tonight I say; We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

    by Fordmandalay on Thu May 10, 2012 at 06:32:02 PM PDT

  •  Absolutely agree, Dave (3+ / 0-)

    Illiteracy is creeping across the land, and the once-mighty traditional media have fallen.  My local rag, The WaPo, fired all the proofreaders and editors and it SHOWS.  Also, for reasons best known to themselves, the Powers That Be at The WaPo arbitrarily decided to change the spelling of "flyer" to "flier."

    Passengers on airplanes are not "fliers," they're flyers.  When you print an 8- by-10-inch information sheet and pass it out around your neighborhood, you're passing out a flyer, not a flier.

    And you dry your clothes in a dryer, not a drier.  "Drier" describes what's happening to our climate.

    So, Dave, thanks for this diary explaining with clarity, precision, and no small point the meaning of the word "anniversary."  I'll mourn the passing of ordinal numbers with you, right after we visit the grave of the past conditional tense (sob!).

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Thu May 10, 2012 at 06:33:57 PM PDT

  •  I've Always Insisted in Using "Lunaversary" for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge


    As it happens, my wife and I were the actual originators of the adult usage of the childhood cheer "Yaaaaay!" numerous decades ago.

    I think we can get lunaversary to catch on; should take about 18 months I figure, as soon as we find someone with one of those Tweaters.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu May 10, 2012 at 06:36:48 PM PDT

  •  I love this stuff! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    There are so many words and phrases that have either changed meaning or been distorted into senselessness in my lifetime.

    Notice how many people (mostly under 35-ish) say all the sudden, rather than all of a sudden.  My real favorites are words that get an added "x."  Especially and et cetera come immediately to mind.  Then there is the whole thing that the nuns taught decades ago: when you see "etc." say "and so forth."  Et cetera is a Latin phrase meaning "and so forth" (or so on), and isn't meant to be said out loud.  Hearing "excetera" is like chalk on the blackboard for me.

    Don't even get me started on the letter "a" vs. the word "a" (pronounced uh).  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are two big culprits, but everyone does it now.  When I was in school, we all felt like bigshots when we learned to say "uh" sometime in 1st or 2nd grade, yet I hear people my age saying "a" now.  Grrrrr.....

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Thu May 10, 2012 at 10:23:24 PM PDT

  •  The internet is not an excuse. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    Language may be changing, but language is a social contract.

    It is our ability to communicate with each other.  The improper use of words over a long period of time can change their meaning, but it is not an excuse to be on the leading edge of the charge.  

    I don't get peeved over the occasional typo, or the funny and creative forming of a new word (huenormous and sarchasm are some of my favorites).

    I do get annoyed with the devolution of language where we are actively losing an ability to communicate clearly.  Where using a five cent word gets a confused look.  I have spent too much time on phone calls, email, and extra work because an objective or need was not communicated, or was not communicated clearly.

    I have supervisors who were less able to communicate than LOLCats.  Jargon, internet speak, texting abbreviations are not excuses.  The written word, and the ability to use it to communicate is seen as a measure of intelligence.  It is more than marginally important.

    It it incumbent upon the author of the missive to make sure they can be understood.  Simply put, make sure your audience can understand it.

    A magazine or paper should know better.  The writers and editors should know about a simple book called any of the following: a style guide, a stylebook, a style manual.  Please use them.

    •  AMEN! (0+ / 0-)

      I think that might be the mission of this group.  If we can't stop the erosion we can make fun of it.

      -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Fri May 11, 2012 at 07:10:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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