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Why There Is No Such Thing as a "Belated Birthday"

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.

We've all heard this phrase a million times. But does it actually make sense?

We've all heard this phrase a million times. But does it actually make sense?

"Happy Belated Birthday"

We've all heard the phrase "happy belated birthday." But what does it really mean?

Good Intentions

When people fail to acknowledge a person's birthday on the exact day, they often try to make up for it by sending a "happy belated birthday" card or telling the recipient "happy belated birthday." While the intention is good, there is no such thing as a belated birthday. Therefore, all "happy belated birthday" cards should be banned. They should never have been designed and put on the market in the first place.

What Does "Belated" Mean?

According to dictionaries, the word "belated" is an adjective that describes something that is late. The word also means coming late or after the expected time. It is another way of saying something was delayed, detained, not on schedule, or not on time.

Based on these definitions, a birthday can't be "late" or "belated." Birthdays are always on time. Therefore, the wording on the card has the adjective in the wrong place—it describes the birthday being late rather than the greeting. Since it was not the birthday that was late, what was late?

The Greeting (Not the Birthday) Was Late

Someone's birthday can't be late. Every birthday is always on time, even if some people don't remember to acknowledge it on the actual date. The greeting is late—not the birthday.

Major greeting card companies such as Hallmark and American Greeting Card have gotten it all wrong. No one has caught on to the inappropriate wording after all these years and after millions of cards have been sold.

Let's fix this!

Let's fix this!

Alternative to Sending "Happy Belated Birthday" Cards

If you remember someone's birthday after the birthday has passed, you can still send a card with the appropriate wording. Look for a card that says, "Belated Happy Birthday" instead of "Happy Belated Birthday" where the adjective is misplaced. Someone can't go back to the actual date and be happy. However, the person can go forward with your good wishes if you say them the correct way. Remember, it is the wish that is belated, not the birthday.

Your verbal greeting should have the same wording because the same explanation applies.

Food for Thought

Some people might not agree with the information in this article. That's their right and privilege. However, some people really do want to know the correct way to say things.

Yes, it is a minor thing to consider in the scheme of life's problems, but it is true nonetheless. It seems to be something no one has thought about before. Perhaps they will think about it now.

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Martha Rogers on May 19, 2020:

So informative. loved it. Makes a lot of sense but Never in my life thought of it this way. Keep writing and informing us. Like you said it's a personal thing but it makes lots of sense.