This past September 11th marked 20 years since the heinous 9/11 terrorist attacks that forever altered this nation. Last Thursday was the 43rd anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, and today is the 58th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, I think calling those events tragic is more than fair. Yet whenever we acknowledge the time that's passed since those incidents, we use the same word we do to recognize past weddings and graduations. As a writer with a minimal grasp of the language I write in, it makes little to no sense to me. Whenever I use the word "anniversary" to reference an adverse event, it feels a bit off, like the party of "family values" voting against universal pre-K and parental leave.
According to Merriam-Webster, technically, "anniversary" has no negative or positive connotation.
I grew up during the days where definitions weren't supposed to have the word its defining in the definition.
But let's just play a quick game of word association. Ready?
What'd you say? Was it wedding, maybe graduation? It's not a perfect test, it's still in the beta stages, but as a blogger with a following that could comfortably fit inside a Chipotle, I understand that this could be another one of my takes with literally zero support. Still, the definition I included that uses the word its defining brings up a great point. I understand that "the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event" has no negative or positive connotation, but "the celebration of an anniversary" does. Let me ask you something. When's the last time you celebrated an attack or death? Hopefully, it wasn't in the first week of January...
Maybe I'm just splitting hairs and making things a little too tricky because good and bad are subjective, and using a catch-all word to recognize significant dates is easier for everybody, but language is ever-evolving. Merriam-Webster added 455 new words to its dictionary last month, including: air fryer, dad bod, and faux-hawk (which feels about 15 years too late). Are you telling me we couldn't create a term for a negative anniversary?
It seems like every few months, a new article of words with no English equivalent goes viral. After eight minutes of research, I still haven't found a non-English word for "negative anniversary," but there's a Japanese word that goes a step above butter face. Details matter!
Now I'm no linguist; I'm just an idea man, but it'd be pretty shitty of me to end this blog without throwing a couple of ideas out there to (potentially) fix this problem. I cannot be the only person on earth who thinks this is an issue. A word like commemoration doesn't work because it has a clear cut "honoring" connotation, but instead of saying "the 12th anniversary of her death" or "31st anniversary of the fire," try these on for size.
-Departure Day (This is the 4th departure day since my cat got run over by that Telsa)
-Commiserdaytion (I can't believe next April 15th is the 9th commiserdaytion of the Boston Marathon Bombing)
-Oops-a-day-see (Last Monday was the 5th oops-a-day-see of when I dropped my twins)
-Condolence Countdown (There's no way this is the 11th condolence countdown since your mom shot your dad, then killed herself; I would've guessed 8th)
-Massacre Mark(s) (2019 was the 100th massacre mark of the attacks on Black Wall Street)
-Adversisary (Every year Michael Jordan recognizes the adversisary of when he was cut from his high school basketball team and how it motivated him to be great)
-Badiversary (2021 was the 10th badiversary of Rebecca Black's "Friday")
-Sadiversary (It's the 8 month sadiversary of my boy/girl/they friend dumping me)
-Madiversary (signifies the anniversary of an event that makes you mad)
-Bummerversary (Every March 17th is the bummerversary of Tom Brady leaving the Patriots)
-Negiday (could be dangerous depending on your accent)
I'm not saying these are home runs, but nothing needs to be written in stone right now; we can continue to workshop. All I know is that saying "anniversary" to acknowledge the date of your son's graduation AND murder doesn't sound right. Don't you agree? What's a word or phrase that you think would make a better term than anniversary to acknowledge a tragedy? Please sound off in the comments!