Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day

One of the themes in my blog is the importance of looking out for the details whenever we communicate. That is, be aware of the nitty gritty details as well as the huge obvious ones that present themselves every day of our lives. If you check out my previous posts, you might think that I am obsessed with all things related to grammar and communication.

I respectfully decline that characterization; instead, I tend to think of myself as extremely interested in these areas, and as a result, I am focused, particular, meticulous, and exacting when dealing with grammar and communication. At the same time, I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from passing along information that could be useful to others. As I have said a few times in nuanced ways, I don’t know everything about grammar and communication, but I know enough to bring some useful ideas and successful tactics to you and others.

Today, I will make some key and relevant observations, and I hope that you will stay with me to the end. I will use Memorial Day as an example to reinforce some ideas and principles I have made in previous posts about grammar and communication.

Everyone loves holidays because you get to do neat things, such as going to the beach, taking a short trip, relaxing from work, or visiting relatives. During the upcoming Monday, those of us in the United States will celebrate Memorial Day. Take a moment and think about Memorial Day, and without using Google, ask yourself what is the purpose or meaning of Memorial Day?

Here are some possibilities:

- To honor those individuals who have served in peacetime or in war

- To honor those who have served our nation overseas in a civilian or military capacity     

- To honor any of our relatives who have died

Like the meaning of words as they change over the years, there are several interpretations of Memorial Day depending upon whom you ask. And like the changes in grammar and communication practices, different interpretations are ok and to be expected. There is no need to judge and no need to malign others who have a different opinion.

I need to point out some details and facts. First, if you read about Memorial Day, you’ll see that its origin dates back many decades, and the holiday has a vibrant history. Second, according to, Memorial Day “honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.” Several other government and commercial websites offer a similar definition without distinguishing between wartime and peacetime service. Third, the holiday has unofficially evolved into one where in many towns and cities across America, all veterans—living or dead; wartime service or not—are honored.

How about that for adaptation? We have an official government-sanctioned federal holiday that honors those who died while they were serving in the military. As a veteran, the meaning of the holiday is clear to me. Yet still, there is ample evidence showing that while most Americans stay true to the original purpose and meaning of the holiday, other Americans supplement the original intent by honoring all veterans, alive or not.

This occurs even though we have a venerated holiday in November dedicated to all men and women who have served in the military: Veterans Day. In fact, there are many purists (veterans and others) who will gently correct a person who mistakenly confuses the two holidays. Most veterans will probably just be grateful that people are putting some thought into the situation by recognizing that veterans and those still serving have done or are doing some selfless, dangerous, and courageous work.

After spending some time thinking of and writing about one of the most sacred holidays in our country, I have some conclusions and suggestions.

• Like grammar, the definition and meaning of anything can change over time.

• If the meaning of something—like a word, phrase, or holiday—changes over time, accept it as natural and inevitable and don’t distress too much over it. These things happen, so try to adjust. But if you can’t adjust, that’s ok too.

• Details matter. If you have read my blog in the past, you already know many of my thoughts about the details and particulars of grammar and communication; I try to alert you to the key points and meanings that matter. With regard to today’s thoughts about the meaning of Memorial Day, those details matter as well—but in a much more exalted and special way.

Thank you for your time today as we enter into the Memorial Day weekend. I send special thanks and appreciation to the men and women who have died serving our country while in the military.

Please bookmark my blog, and contact me with your comments or ideas.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        @randallponder

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