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Why do some people say "Happy New Years" (with an "s" at the end of "years")? Here are some examples on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%22happy%20new%20years%22

It seems like "year" should be singular, because there is only one new year.

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And for 2012, it should read "Happy Last Year". Hah. –  kobaltz Jan 2 '12 at 4:07
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5 Answers 5

up vote 24 down vote accepted

It's a misspelling[1] of Happy New Year's, i.e. Happy New Year's Day, where New Year's Day is January first. Or so I've always understood it, anyway.


[1] But see comments on this answer.

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Thanks for the quick response. As a follow-up, is saying "Happy New Year's" (without the word "day") grammatically correct? –  Alec Jan 1 '12 at 17:54
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@Alec, I don't see why not. Much as "the Court of St James's" (without "Palace") is correct, or "I'm going to Bob's" (without "house") is correct. –  msh210 Jan 1 '12 at 17:58
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I upvoted the answer itself, but I have to point out Happy New Year's is definitely not something native English speakers would normally say. Asking whether it's grammatical is a bit meaningless, but I'd say it's not. –  FumbleFingers Jan 1 '12 at 18:41
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@msh210: In the case of "Going to Bob's", we don't care if the missing residence is a flat, house, mansion, or a hole in the ground. But if you said "See you New Year's" (which I don't think people normally do), almost certainly you'd mean Eve (at a party, perhaps). You'd look a bit silly turning up for the festivities on New Year's Day, when everyone else is nursing a hangover! –  FumbleFingers Jan 1 '12 at 18:47
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@FumbleFingers, sure, "New Year's" is context-dependent: sometimes means the day and sometimes the night before, depending on whether a good wish or a party is under discussion. Likewise, "going to Bob's" can mean his summer home or his regular home, depending on when the speaker is going to Bob's. Re "definitely not something native English speakers would normally say", you should hang around people whom I hang around. (Or not, if you want your ears to remain unsullied.) –  msh210 Jan 1 '12 at 18:51
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It think it comes from the phrases New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in both it is correct to add the "s". We would not say New Year Eve or New Year Day. This possessive form is erroneously carried over by some to the greeting for the New Year. As pointed out by @FumbleFingers when someone refers to New Year's (without eve or day specified) it implies New Year's Eve.

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Many holidays end up with a possessive on them - Happy Valentines! we'll say, as likely as Happy Valentine's Day, or Happy Saint Paddies! instead of Happy St Patrick's Day. Technically we wish each other the entire New Year happy, not just New Year's Day, but I would never correct someone who said Happy New Years! to me.

If you used "New Year's" in a sentence, rather than in the set phrase "Happy New Years!" I would probably think you meant New Year's Eve, especially in a context like "what are you doing New Year's?" or "we met at New Year's". So don't use it outside that set phrase.

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The plural form could be used to address the people in the different time zones. If somebody living in Sweden tweets "Happy New Years" they could mean not only "their" (celebration of) new year, but also a happy new year to their friends in the US, where it will be celebrated several hours later.

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When addressing New Year's Eve and New Year's Day collectively, while simultaneously disambiguating from the date transition, New Year, I will often truncate at just New Year's to indicate those days possessed by the holiday. This seems to be one of the most common understandings of the set of days bracketing the date transition, the other being the use of the capitalized New Year to imply either or both of these cases.

I believe dropping the possessive is a common corruption of the former, due to a basic misunderstanding of how it interacts with the modifiee, "Day," instead of a deliberate appeal to the set of all possible New Years celebrated in a singular, or set of surrounding, Day(s).

This has been discussed previously in other answers and comments, and it'd certainly be an interesting cognitive study in language drift to see why each form is in common use.

Further sourcing and discussion, for British and American English:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv329.shtml

http://data.grammarbook.com/blog/apostrophes/confusing-possessives

http://www.englishforums.com/English/AllTheBestForNewYears/kzrhz/post.htm

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protected by RegDwigнt Jan 1 '12 at 22:58

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