Ask Professor Puzzler
Do you have a question you would like to ask Professor Puzzler? Click here to ask your question!
"Where does the apostrophe go in Presidents Day? Is it before the 's,' after the 's,' or nowhere?"
This is a fun question to look at for the month of February. In a couple weeks students across the country will be on vacation for a week, and their vacation will begin with the federal holiday called...
Which is it? The surprising answer is: None of the above!
That's right - there is no federal holiday named any of those variations on "Presidents Day." The actual federal holiday is named "Washington's Birthday," with the apostrophe before the 's,' because we're only celebrating one Washington. If we were celebrating George Washington and George Washington Carver, we would call it "Washingtons' Birthdays" or something like that.
But if the holiday is officially known as "Washington's Birthday," why do we call it "Presidents Day"?
The answer to that stems from the fact that Lincoln's birthday is near Washington's birthday, and there was a push to make the holiday a celebration of both birthdays. And there was also a push to make it a celebration of all presidents.
Who made this push? Various states. You see, even though the holiday is officially called "Washington's Birthday" by the federal government, many states have implemented their own names for the holiday.
Which brings us back to the original question, with the qualification that now we're talking about state holidays. And the answer is: ALL THREE.
That's right; since each state gets to implement their own state holidays, and none of them agree, exactly, on how to implement it, the holiday gets named differently depending on how the state intends it to be celebrated.
For example, if you live in New Jersey (and a few other states), you celebrate the day without any apostrophes. Congratulations, New Jersians - you don't have to worry about where that apostrophe belongs!
If you live in Texas, you are celebrating multiple presidents, so you celebrate "Presidents' Day."
If you live in Maine, you are either celebrating a single president (presumably Washington) or you are celebrating the office of president, because you celebrate the singular "President's Day."
Some states choose not to use the word "President" at all, calling the holiday things like "Washington's Birthday" or "Lincoln's Birthday" or the somewhat convoluted title "Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday."
Montana seems to prefer Lincoln over Washington, since they reverse it to "Lincoln's and Washington's Birthday"
Interestingly, a couple southern states eliminate Lincoln altogether from the holiday; Alabama replaces him with Thomas Jefferson, and Arkansas replaces him with civil rights activist Daisy Bates.
Did your state not get mentioned in this post? Head on over to Wikipedia and search for "Washington's Birthday" and you'll get a more detailed analysis.
And enjoy your holiday, whatever you might call it!
Educators can get a free membership simply by sharing an original lesson plan on our Articles for Educators page!