Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing tip: Anniversary — an annual kind of word

As the year end and new year approach, I thought it was a good time to discuss a year-related word and deal with something that has bothered me for a long time.

The word: anniversary.

What bugs me: the way too many people misuse it, as in “first-year anniversary,” or “ten-year anniversary.”

It bothers me because the word “year” in unnecessary in this usage. According to the Oxford dictionary, “anniversary” means
“the yearly return of a date on which an event took place in a previous year.”
According to some cursory and largely unnecessary research—all literate English speakers should know this—it derives from two Latin words: “Annus” meaning “year” and “versus” meaning “turned.” Thus, an anniversary is the turning of a year.

We can speak (or write) correctly of the first, second, tenth or whateverth anniversary of something. To write the “two-year anniversary” means “the two year yearly return of the date.” It’s redundant.

Worse, I hear this misuse from otherwise reputable and well-spoken sources, particularly on the CBC radio. And you know what that could lead to: more and more people picking up on that misuse. As English is a living language, common use becomes accepted and adopted as correct.

Please, join me in this effort: let’s say and write “first anniversary,” “tenth anniversary” and so on, instead of “x-year anniversary”—or worse, “six-month anniversary.”

If we don’t make this effort, this incorrect use will become correct. And I’ll be left irritated by something that used to be wrong, but is now right.

Don’t you hate that?

Have a happy, health and prosperous new year.


  1. Anonymous3:25 PM

    I guess I never took a moment to think about this particular wordy issue, but I do usually say 10th anniversary without the the redundant year. However I am sure that I have never had an ear spasm over the words year and anniversary doing a pile up in conversation. :) But I shall endeavor to do better.

  2. I really enjoy posts like this one, Scott. It's a great relief to know I'm not alone when it comes to being frustrated by the mangling of our language.

  3. What really gets right up my starboard nostril, amongst a very large list: is people saying "a myriad of..." They need to be slapped mercilessly. Anyone who uses a pretty cool word should at least invest a second or so in discovering its correct usage.

  4. It's funny the mistakes people make without even thinking. An editor once told me you almost never need the words up or down either….they are often redundant. Like in "Climbing up a ladder." You only need to say Climbing a ladder. Good to raise awareness!

  5. Anonymous10:44 PM

    I don't know if you'll get everyone on board for this! It even sounds funny to my own ear to say it the proper way. I won't lie, I do add the word year all the time. But then again, I'm terrible at grammar and it's why I employ editors!

  6. I love pet peeves and this is a good one. I also cringe when I hear "this is my 10-year anniversary" AND I hope I don't ever write that in one of my novels. Great post.

  7. Now I have to go back and check the certificate I gave my parents as part of their 25th anniversary gift!

  8. Anonymous12:57 PM

    Great point. LOL I wonder how many times I've made this mistake...

  9. Wow, had no idea about this - thanks for enlightening me Scott, great post.