Thursday, July 5, 2018

A rose by any other name

Having just observed this week the 242nd anniversary of the signing of America's Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776, it becomes clearer with every passing day that in just eight more years, before we know it, the United States of America will be reaching its 250th birthday. I was always good at math.

Did you know that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing?

Well, they did.

Everybody does, eventually. The mortality rate is 100%.

Be that as it may, there are words that apply to certain anniversaries. Centennial applies to the 100th, sesquicentennial applies to the 150th, bicentennial applies to the 200th, and so forth, and so on.

Do you know, without looking it up, what word applies to the 250th anniversary, which, as mentioned above, will be occurring in just eight short years? We do want to be ready, don't we?

Of course we do.

Actually, there are several possible answers, all of which have been put forth in recent years:

1. Semiquincentennial (literally ½ × 500)
2. Sestercentennial (literally 2½ × 100)
3. Bicenquinquagenary (literally 2 × 100 × 50, or 10,000 (which is wrong). Princeton University coined this word for its 250th anniversary in 1996. If it could somehow indicate 2 × 100 plus 50 it would be correct.)
4. Quarter-millennial (literally ¼ × 1000)

Please vote in the comments for the word you will be using in the privacy of your own home.


  1. I do believe I will say 250th anniversary. My tongue is not nimble enough for your three suggestions.

  2. "Did you know that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing?"

    The last words of Adams were, "Jefferson still lives," or something very similar, but he was wrong. It was such an interesting relationship that the two of them had, what with a friendship, followed by a bitter rivalry, followed by a renewed friendship that was mostly carried on via correspondence.

    "'The mortality rate is 100%,"

    But what about the other percentages? Surely you don't mean to suggest that all those people are still alive, although, of course, you and certainly are (so far as I'm aware).

    Might not "quarter-millennial" be at least as correct as quarter-millennium?

  3. I looked for a source for Adam's last words so I could come better than an approximate quotation. They were, "Thomas Jefferson still survives." I also learned that, upon their deaths, only one signer of the Declaration of Independence was still alive, His name was Charles Carroll, and he lasted until 1832.

  4. A TRUMPet.
    He's doing a fine job and giving snowflakes apoplexy as a bonus.

  5. None of the above. I am with Emma.