President’s, Presidents’ or Presidents

What day is today? We see  President’s Day, Presidents’ Day and Presidents Day used all over the place today. In advertisements, service announcements, commercials, etc..

Which one is correct?

Actually, none of them are correct for the nation as a whole. Today is Washington’s Birthday.

Washington at Valley Forge - Frank Miller Cartoon - Washington's Birthday - Presidents DayThe Spirit of 76 depended on Washington

Often there was retreat; and often there was defeat. But there was always the calm and confident figure of Washington. Often it was his figure alone that kept the Spirit alive.

Today, if we are to keep that spirit alive, we must keep the spirit of Washington.

The cartoon above is most likely from Frank Miller. It does not have a signature, but is representative of his work. It did come from one of my Grandma’s scrapbooks where there are a lot of his cartoons. This was from a 1959 scrapbook when Washington’s Birthday was still officially celebrated on February 22.

So, back to the original question. What day is today? According to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, it is still officially Washington’s Birthday.

Some states have passed additional legislation to rename Washington’s Birthday as Presidents’ Day. The weekend itself is also often known as Presidents’ Day Weekend (apostrophe placement varies).

For someone who takes grammar seriously, this weekend can be grating on the nerves as they see the apostrophe moving all over the place.

Of course, Washington’s Birthday is an easy one to figure out and the apostrophe is not often misplaced. The Birthday belongs to Washington and therefore we use the possessive apostrophe between the n and the s.

President Washington, Washington's Birthday, President's Day - Marx Presidential Figure

If the day was only honoring President Washington, we should use President’s Day.

Presidents Washington and Lincoln - Presidents' Day - Marx Presidential Figurines

If we mean that the day honors both President Washington and President Lincoln we could use Presidents’ Day as the day belongs to both of them.

However, since Presidents is used as an attributive noun to modify the noun Day, Presidents Day can also been used. In recent years the use of attributive nouns has been increasing and several style manuals now give Presidents Day as the preferred style when used in this sense. It is also more inclusive as this day is often used to honor all presidents.

Marx President Figurines - Washington to Johnson - President's Day - Figurines - Grocery Promotion

The find out more about the figurines used to illustrate this post, click on the link to a post I wrote last week: Marx Presidents

So,  what day is today?

For me, as I live in California, it is Washington’s Birthday. The weekend is Presidents Day Weekend, since it falls between the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents.

I looked through several California Government websites and saw it used different ways. I even saw one website use Presidents’ Day with a footnote referring to Section 6103(a) of the US Code and saying they use the name of the Holiday designated in the law. What is interesting is that Section 6103(a) uses Washington’s Birthday :-).

Which do you think is the correct name to use for today?

Steven

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16 Responses to President’s, Presidents’ or Presidents

  1. Sheryl says:

    mulled over how to write Presidents’ Day when writing my post on Lincoln’s Birthday several days ago, and decided to go with the apostrophe after the “s”. .I enjoyed this post, and especially liked pictures that visually represented the various permutations.

  2. I think everyone has started thinking of it as President’s Day; and, of course Washington’s Birthday, too. So, I’m guessing it’s both.

  3. Boomdeeadda says:

    We also had a long weekend here. Some employers (not all) recognize ‘Family Day’. There are all kinds of events geared to kids and parents, which we wouldn’t attend but enjoy the day off from the usual routine anyways. Maybe some people there are the same…..as in they don’t so much have a favourite but enjoy the day off anyways.

  4. Just a question? Where did you get the neat statuettes of the presidents? 😀 They are awesome!

  5. Tammy says:

    I believe it is President’s and that it refers to Washington. The movement or removing of the apostrophe is a scheme to sell mattresses!

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