I recently mentioned that this week marks 17 years of Patrick’s Place. But we should talk about what anniversaries do and don’t commemorate.
In most cases, people mark anniversaries as happy occasions. We like to celebrate them, after all, because they usually stand as noteworthy accomplishments.
There are cases, however, when we mark an anniversary of a tragic thing happening. The example of 9/11 comes to mind. This year, we will look back at the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks. It’s hard to believe it has been that long.
But when we talk about anniversaries, it’s important to note one important part of the definition.
The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us anniversary entered English in the 12th century. It comes from the Latin annus, meaning “year,” and versus, “to turn.” The site defines it as a “year day.” That means those occasions refer to the annual return of a certain date in the year.
Recently on Facebook, a place not known for good grammar, someone wished someone else a happy “six-month anniversary.” Whatever the occasion was, it happened six months earlier.
But there’s no such thing as a “six-month anniversary.” Or a “one-month,” “three-month” or even “10-month.”
Anniversaries refer to years, not months.
Even the Associated Press Stylebook offers this advice in its anniversary listing: “Avoid terms such as six-month anniversary (or other time spans less than a year).” For that matter, you should avoid terms that reference partial year timespans as well. You can’t call something a “one-and-a-half-year anniversary,” either.
If it doesn’t involve the completion of a year — or multiple full years — don’t call it an “anniversary.”