Happy Christmas vs. Merry Christmas

Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Fri Dec 24 20:40:52 UTC 2010

David A. Daniel wrote:

> My direct contact with Brits and Britspeak goes back to 1967. I have, from
> that time till now, observed that Brits say Happy while Americans say
> Merry. Got a note from an English friend today, said Happy. And, while
> we're at it, I'd like to wish both Happy and Merry Christmas to all.

My contact goes back rather further. Older Brits, such as myself, may
still say "Merry Christmas", especially in writing or when prefixing it to
"and a happy New Year". This avoids repeating "happy" - I've never heard
anybody suggest that any new year might be merry.

Two data points: a check on the website of the Daily Telegraph - a
conservative British newspaper - finds 2,090 examples of "merry" and only
337 of "happy".

So, with the statistics on my side, I feel happy to wish everybody a very
Merry Christmas.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
Web: http://www.worldwidewords.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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