July 27, 2007

Annual Event or Annual Occurence?

Last night, I attended our office's annual summer BBQ. It was the third time that we've held the event and our GM welcomed everyone to our "second annual summer BBQ."

The crowd protested pointing out that this is the third year.

Our GM then proceeded to mock our ignorance saying that it wasn't "annual" until the second time, which makes the second the first and the third the "second annual summer BBQ."

Since we're being persnickety in this post, I'd like to point out that the adjective "summer" is superfluous since we don't BBQ in the winter or any other season for our office.

But his point is still one of contention.

Some parties agree with his logic much in the way that the new millennium didn't start until 2001. There is no year zero and therefore years ending in zero belong to the previous ten year increment and not the later.

I disagree with this logic.

The first time you have an event with the intent to hold it annually, you refer to it as your "inaugural summer BBQ" for example. The second time you have the event you call it your "second annual summer BBQ" because it is the second time you've had the event and now it's an annual thing since it happens yearly.

In the phrase "second annual summer BBQ" there is one noun, BBQ, and there are three adjectives, second, annual, and summer. "Second" indicates where the event is in the series. "Annual" indicates the period of recurrence. And "summer" describes the season of recurrence.

By our GM's logic, "annual" not only describes the frequency but also has something to say about the position in the series.

Our GM argued to me, "Well, by your logic, you'd never say 'first annual,' then." I agreed pointing out that you should say "inaugural event" instead to avoid being awkward and presumptuous. He said that people use this formulation all the time. I say that doesn't change its awkwardness or the presumption.

From Ask the Editor at the AP Stylebook:

Can I use "First Annual" for an event that is occuring one year after its inaugural debut?

The AP Stylebook entry on annual includes: Do not use the term "first annual." Instead, note that sponsors plan to hold an event annually.

This implies support for my position on this matter.

Mister Bookworm and Johndavid both agree with me.

The people at Pain in the English all agree with me about the second and third, but some of them disagree about whether or not it's acceptable to call the inaugural event the "first annual event."

Anyway, what do you think about this? Did we just have our third annual summer BBQ or our second annual summer BBQ?

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at July 27, 2007 10:01 AM | TrackBack

I think you attended the 3rd annual summer BBQ.

The difference is if you are holding a yearly event or commemorating a specific event yearly. The first case would be the Xth Annual Whatever. In the second case, you'd have the (X-1)th Anniversary of Whatever.

So unless your first big BBQ was really an event in and of itself (some kind of product launch for example), then what you done did had 2 years ago was an Inaugural or First Annual BBQ.

Posted by: Rational Jenn at July 27, 2007 05:09 PM

Of course it was your third annual Barbecue. Even if the inaugural one wasn't originally intended to be the first in a series, it has obviously become that.

But "annual summer barbecue" might imply that there's also an annual winter barbecue?

Posted by: valda redfern at July 28, 2007 04:09 AM

You've had this event three times so far, and it appears to be an annual thing... so... it was your Third Annual BBQ (that just so happens to be held in the summer).

Posted by: Tiberius at July 28, 2007 10:04 AM
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