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ConNotes #2: ‘Gift’

November 22, 2008
Gift Box

Gift Box (Photo credit: Maeflower72)

In a LiveJournal community I frequent, a poster described a situation where she had been invited to a baby shower and that the invitation had included instructions on which gift she was expected to buy.

To me, the woman holding the baby shower has mangled the meaning of the word ‘gift.’ I feel that the choice of a gift, including whether or not to even give a gift, is entirely within the domain of the giver.

On the other hand, at least in the United States, with certain events come the expectation that at least some attendees will bring presents. These actions fall under the umbrella of ‘tradition’, and we all know that traditions have a funny way of changing the meaning of many things, up to and including their own origins. So how far are people stretching the word ‘gift’, and its meaning, really?

It’s possible that this boils down to etiquette and not the interpretation of a single word. I think that it wouldn’t be an issue of etiquette if different people weren’t assigning different definitions to the same word, so it’s still a matter worth discussing on Word Watcher.

What do you think? Has the meaning of the word gift changed sufficiently for people to expect to receive one at a party/shower without qualification? How about instructing each person attending that party to buy a specific gift?

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