Season’s Greetings and other seasonal pitfalls

Christmas is getting closer and the preparations for the festive season are well under way. If you think that pedants and sticklers will grant you some sort of Christmas amnesty, you are most probably wrong. For  them the Christmas season is yet another occasion to spot their fellow citizens’ alleged abuses of the English language. In order to avoid any confrontation at the dinner table, here is some advice on how to write “pedantproof” Christmas cards.

Seasons Greetings?

The most common mistake on Christmas cards is the misplaced or, God forbid, forgotten apostrophe. In this article on SLATE, Kate Brannen provides a hilarious and personal insight into how Christmas cards can affect the Christmas cheer. Brannen illustrates the struggle and confusion caused by the pluralisation of the family name when writing Christmas cards. Is it the Johnsons? Or the Johnson’s?  Zimmermans? Or Zimmermen? If you are not sure how to make your family name plural, go and check the table Brannen provides. Adding a apostrophe to the family name does not necessarily have to be wrong. If you do add one, it does not make your family name a plural but a possessive. So in case you would like to say that the annual Christmas party is taking place at your place, you could say: The Christmas party will take place at the Johnson’s.

The apostrophe also needs special attention when sending your Christmas wishes. The well-known and cherished  Season’s Greetings are often confused with the apostropheless Seasons Greetings. Similar pitfalls constitute the capitalisation of merry Christmas and happy holidays. As merry, happy and holidays are not proper names, there is no need to capitalise these words, except of course they start a sentence.  Well, at least technically. Capitalising holidays as in ‘Happy Holidays to you and your family’ seems to be a common variant.

What would you use? Do let us know and fill in the poll below!



About Carmen Ebner

Carmen Ebner is a sociolinguist. In September 2017, she has obtained her PhD in Linguistics from Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) in the Netherlands, where she worked on a project on language attitudes and prescriptivism in British English. Carmen's research interests include all things sociolinguistics. In particular, she is interested in linguistic discrimination, attitude elicitation techniques, language variation and change, and historical sociolinguistics.
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