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Happy Vs. Merry

English translation: One explanation

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:Happy Vs. Merry
English translation:One explanation
Entered by: Kim Metzger
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15:38 Dec 26, 2002
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
English term or phrase: Happy Vs. Merry
Today one of my colleagues in office wished me in this way, "Happy Christmas". Then sensing as if he had committed a mistake, he asked why do we call it Merry Christmas only, why we can't say it as Happy Christmas. This query rendered me answerless as I had no concrete idea to offer. But this was quite enough to provide an input for posing another useful question to learned linguists like you and get our curosity satisfied.

I guess that this is perhaps a case of co-usage, as we say:

She has had her lunch. OR
She has taken her lunch.
But we never say:

She has eater her lunch.

I think the same principle of co-usage is doing a trick in the abovementioned case. Could you kindly clarify or expand on it to clear doubts?

Merry New Year, oh no, let me correct myself, Happy New Year to all of you great scholars.
R. Chopra
One explanation
Explanation:
It would be very unusual to hear an American say "Happy Christmas" to another American. The common expression in the US is "Merry Christmas." But I believe British speakers use both expressions, i.e. Happy Christmas and Merry Christmas and Happy Christmas is more usual in Britain.
Selected response from:

Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 12:31
Grading comment
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
3 +18One explanation
Kim Metzger
4 +7avoiding the double 'happy'
jerrie
4 +3Comments
JCEC
5same but different...
Ildiko Santana
5 -4no difference
Drak


  

Answers


11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Comments


Explanation:
It is definitely a question of usage.

I happen to think that "has eaten" is perfectly correct and probably more frequent than "has takent".

The same applies to "happy" and "merry". A search on Google is quite interesting in that respect.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-12-26 15:54:10 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

has had lunch = 183
has eaten lunch = 131
has taken lunh = 15

Merry Chistmas = 668 000
Happy Chistmas = 83 400


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-12-26 15:55:19 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sorry Christmas. I did it again.

JCEC
Canada
Local time: 13:31
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in pair: 59

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Chris Rowson: "Has taken lunch" is now distinctly archaic, "has eaten lunch" is perfectly normal. "Happy Christmas" is also perfectly normal, except when followed by "and a happy New Year".
2 hrs

agree  Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ
4 hrs

agree  Amy Williams: Happy Christmas!
6 hrs
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14 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +18
One explanation


Explanation:
It would be very unusual to hear an American say "Happy Christmas" to another American. The common expression in the US is "Merry Christmas." But I believe British speakers use both expressions, i.e. Happy Christmas and Merry Christmas and Happy Christmas is more usual in Britain.

Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 12:31
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 2249

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Christopher Crockett: Yes, that's certainly my understanding.
10 mins

agree  xxxtazdog
18 mins

agree  jccantrell: Plus, in the USA, it usually goes together with 'Happy New Year' and so would sound funny.
23 mins

agree  NancyLynn: exactly! Happy Christmas is Brit in origin
33 mins

agree  Piotr Kurek
37 mins

agree  Andrea Ali
55 mins

agree  Refugio
1 hr

agree  David Knowles: "Happy Christmas" is British, and apart from this fixed phrase, merry means semi-intoxicated (at least in the UK)!
1 hr

agree  Chris Rowson: "Happy Christmas" is perfectly normal! (Actually :-)
2 hrs

agree  Libero_Lang_Lab
2 hrs

agree  Gayle Wallimann
2 hrs

agree  Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ
4 hrs

agree  Amy Williams: Happy Christmas!
6 hrs

agree  Nina Engberg: Happy Christmas is perfectly normal in the US, but much less common.
6 hrs

agree  Paula Ibbotson: Agree, but not to Nina's comment. In North America (think Canada too people!!!), we would say "Merry Christmas" & as jccantrell suggests, we usually follow this with "'Happy' New Year"! We also say "Happy Holidays!" The Brits wish us a "Happy" xmas ...
9 hrs

agree  xxxHoggelen
10 hrs

agree  Anette Herbert: and in Sweden we say God Jul!
2 days17 hrs

agree  AhmedAMS
11 days
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28 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): -4
no difference


Explanation:
There is no difference really. They both mean the same thing. It is just a matter of tradition. Traditionally, we say "Merry Christmas", while we could say "Happy Christmas" to mean the same thing. Usually, when someone says "Happy Christmas", it is not a native English speaker...

Drak
PRO pts in pair: 7

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  NancyLynn: I would think Brits are native speakers
18 mins
  -> ...hm... now, let me think...

neutral  GingerR: in the light of Kim Metzger suggestion and your answer, British are not native English speakers! ;) j/k
21 mins
  -> I have never heard a Brit say "Happy Christmas", but I guess I stand corrected...

neutral  airmailrpl: "I would think Brits are native speakers" - not of English!!!
2 hrs
  -> Ok, ok...

disagree  Chris Rowson: Happy Christmas!
2 hrs
  -> ...and a Merry New Year...!!!

disagree  Amy Williams: grr
6 hrs
  -> Uh... that bad, huh...?

disagree  xxxsimantov: Bad enough! Brits are not native speakers? Stone the crows!
1 day8 hrs
  -> Oh, man...
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
avoiding the double 'happy'


Explanation:
in the UK I would say that 'Happy Christmas' is the more natural seasonal greeting as a stand alone...

but if at the same time you want to wish somebody 'a Happy New Year', you would then use 'Merry'...

so, either

Happy Christmas
or..
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

(I have never heard 'Merry New Year..although most people get very 'merry' to see the New Year in)!

jerrie
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:31
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 773

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Drak
31 mins
  -> Thanks

agree  Chris Rowson: Merry New Christmas!
1 hr
  -> and a Happy Year!

agree  Libero_Lang_Lab
1 hr
  -> Thanks

agree  José Henrique Lamensdorf
3 hrs
  -> Thanks

agree  Amy Williams: Happy Christmas!
5 hrs
  -> Happy Xmas!!

agree  Lesley Clayton: Hic!
16 hrs
  -> Doubly happy!!?? Hic, hic! Thanks

agree  xxxsimantov: The best (British) answer.
1 day7 hrs
  -> Thanks
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9 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
same but different...


Explanation:
*MERRY*
Etymology: Middle English mery, from Old English myrge, merge; akin to Old High German murg short
Date: before 12th century
1 archaic : giving pleasure : DELIGHTFUL
2 : full of gaiety or high spirits : MIRTHFUL
3 : marked by festivity or gaiety
4 : QUICK, BRISK <a merry pace>
- mer·ri·ly /'mer-&-lE/ adverb
- mer·ri·ness /'mer-E-n&s/ noun
synonyms MERRY, BLITHE, JOCUND, JOVIAL, JOLLY mean showing high spirits or lightheartedness. MERRY suggests cheerful, joyous, uninhibited enjoyment of frolic or festivity <a merry group of revelers>. BLITHE suggests carefree, innocent, or even heedless gaiety <arrived late in his usual blithe way>. JOCUND stresses elation and exhilaration of spirits <singing, dancing, and jocund feasting>. JOVIAL suggests the stimulation of conviviality and good fellowship <dinner put them in a jovial mood>. JOLLY suggests high spirits expressed in laughing, bantering, and jesting <our jolly host enlivened the party>.

It's worth noting that "happy" is NOT a synonym..

*HAPPY*
Etymology: Middle English, from hap
Date: 14th century
1 : favored by luck or fortune : FORTUNATE
2 : notably fitting, effective, or well adapted : FELICITOUS <a happy choice>
3 a : enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment : JOYOUS b : expressing or suggestive of happiness : PLEASANT c : GLAD, PLEASED d : having or marked by an atmosphere of good fellowship : FRIENDLY
4 a : characterized by a dazed irresponsible state <a punch-happy boxer> b : impulsively or obsessively quick to use or do something <trigger-happy> c : enthusiastic about something to the point of obsession : OBSESSED <education-conscious and statistic-happy -- Helen Rowen>
synonym see LUCKY, FIT
~~~

As you can see, there is a very subtle difference, hence these too may not be used interchangeably.
However, the *translation* of these two adjectives can be so close or even identical, in numerous languages, that we, linguists, tend to regard them as synonyms. Well, now you know. There're not.

Have a Joyous Holiday Season, All!


    MERRYam Webster. ;)
Ildiko Santana
United States
Local time: 10:31
Native speaker of: Native in HungarianHungarian, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 162

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  xxxsimantov: Happy is not a synonym? True, it's normally considered to be a word :-))))
22 hrs
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