Sunday, December 18, 2005

Happy [choose your word]

Have you ever stood and read the insides of greetings cards in a shop, or is it only me that does that?... I know, really must get a life, but Christmas provides the ideal opportunity to indulge my fascination with the forms of language used in greetings cards without the burly store detective coming to stand next to me, breathing heavily and eyeing me suspiciously. So, although most of my cards are still at work, I've just done a mini-investigation of the ones at home. I've noted all the words/phrases (and the absence of any) printed on the cards, either inside or out, and these are my findings:
  • No greeting 36%
  • Happy Christmas 18%
  • Merry Christmas 14%
  • Season's greetings 9%
  • Bethlehem 4.5%
  • Christmas wishes 4.5%
  • With best wishes for the New Year 4.5%
  • Merry Christmas and a happy New Year 4.5%
  • Festive greetings 4.5%

Why exactly have I done such an odd thing? Well, it was stimulated by the article I've linked below, from the New York Times. In the first half of this, William Safire explores the issue of what greetings Americans are choosing to send to their friends and families. I've been aware of this cultural difference for a while, as my Jewish Manhanttanite friend always sends me a "Happy Holidays" card round about this time of year - usually one depicting her cats and dogs bedecked in tinsel... To me, that greeting still sounds frightfully American, but with political correctness and religious sensitivity both playing a much bigger role there than here, it is understandable. What I'm interested to know is how much things might be changing here...

Safire quotes a greetings card company spokesperson as saying that this year there has been a 50-50 sales split between greetings that mention the word 'Christmas' and those using 'holidays'. My card from the States hasn't come yet, and the word 'holidays' doesn't appear anywhere in my sample. But if you take those that do use the word 'Christmas' (and I've included the one with 'Bethlehem' on it) and those that don't, you get a 46-54 split.

Is this evidence that people are sending more secular greetings? Well, it's too small a sample to say (need a language investigation project? Don't chuck those cards away, then!), and things are never as simple as that anyway. Some of my cards with nothing at all printed on them have images that are explicitly Biblical. And maybe it says something either about my friends, or about their perception of me, but I haven't had any cards either that are like those I saw in Tescos yesterday, with pink baubles and the greeting something like "sparkly shiny starry". What kind of greeting is that?!! It's not even a greeting, which has a certain grammatical structure - it's just a list of adjectives! Sparkly shiny starry what?

So, there you go. Check the linkylove article, go hang out in card shops.

Gifts of Gab

(You need to register with the NYT to read this article but it's free, it really does only take a minute, and it's kosher.)


At 11:24 pm, Anonymous jj said...

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Many thanks

At 9:23 am, Anonymous Sprachkurse Frankreich said...

percentage are more for No greetings..haha Mean they are busy person..that's good

At 9:36 am, Blogger Neil Jakson said...

I like your post but Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. dissertation Writing Service


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