Festive gifting
Posted: 29 November 2013 03:39 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A couple of days ago a columnist in the [London] Times, enraged at finding her inbox full of advertising material for ‘Festive Gifting’, wrote a rant about gifting, condemning it as an ugly and unnecessary word.

Ugly, I grant her. But unnecessary? I don’t think so. Everyone in Rightpondia understands, even if only unconsciously, that a gift (as in ‘Ideal Gift’) is what you give to someone whose tastes you don’t know or care enough about to give a present to. (And my excellent father made sure that his children understood that the subspecies free gift is the kind you have to pay for.) I would say that festive gifting, ugly or not, is a very clear and handy term for a modern Western custom with anthropological parallels worldwide: the ritual exchange, on fixed ceremonial occasions, of objects of equivalent value.

Anybody disagree? Is there anybody here who would describe giving presents to their best-beloveds as ‘festive gifting’, other than with tongue firmly stuffed in cheek? Does Left- and Rightpondian usage differ at all?

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Posted: 29 November 2013 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The OED has the verb to gift from the sixteenth century and the gerund gifting from 1619. It’s an old entry (from 1899), so the words can probably be antedated somewhat.

Gifting is also useful in that it is distinguished from giving in the sense of charitable donations. Unless the context were clearly about the exchange of presents, I would assume that festive giving referred to making charitable contributions during the holiday season. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever used the term gifting, much less festive gifting, in actual speech. (On second thought, I may have used gifting in an anthropological context when discussing Beowulf and the gift economy represented in the poem.) But there are lots of terms that have currency in retail and business applications that aren’t used in everyday speech.

Everyone in Rightpondia understands, even if only unconsciously, that a gift (as in ‘Ideal Gift’) is what you give to someone whose tastes you don’t know or care enough about to give a present to.

I guess I’m one of those who has made this distinction unconsciously all my life. Now that I think about it, it matches my Leftpondian experience too.

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Posted: 29 November 2013 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s not a verb I use, but I don’t have a problem with it.

We also have regifting, now.

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Posted: 29 November 2013 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Ugly, I grant her.

Why?  What is the drastic difference between gifting and lifting—or do you consider the latter equally ugly?  I don’t mean to pick on you in particular; it seems to be a nearly universal human trait to call any lexical item one is not familiar with or dislikes for some other reason “ugly,” but I don’t really understand why.  One can dislike a word (or a politician, come to that) that is perfectly well formed and superficially attractive.

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Posted: 29 November 2013 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ugly, I grant her.

Why?

Perhaps because of the associations?  “Festive gifting” sounds like a commercial euphemism for “reckless Christmas spending”; dreamed up by some PR person employed by people who make money out of Christmas shopping, and having as much to do with any real holiday as a ho-ho-ho-ing Santa Claus in a tinsel-sprinkled department store in mid-October.
I know of no other religious holiday (Christian or other) in the Western world which has been quite so grossly exploited for gain as Christmas. It seems clear to me that anyone who takes Christmas seriously could not feel very good about this.

I agree with languagehat - “gifting” is an innocuous word, and can be a pleasing one in some contexts: “Sir Thomas rescued the library by gifting a large sum to the University”.  But the phrase “festive gifting” has sordid connotations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what upset Syntinen Laulu.

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Posted: 29 November 2013 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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And between these posts we have it all. Just as ugly can describe countenance, it can describe an emotion.

And isn’t it just so with a holiday. We all have varying degrees of linkage between the countenance and the emotions.

Personally, I’m down with “gifting” and see it as a way to extend my feelings of generosity and good will towards men to those beyond my circle of knowledge. Just because you’re gifting, doesn’t mean it’s not from the heart. Christmas is whatever you make it.

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Posted: 30 November 2013 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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As another Leftpondian I’ll say that the distinction offered between gift and present is totally alien to me.  If there’s a distinction in my idiolect it would be that a present would be only given on a formal gift giving occasion such as Christmas or a birthday, while a gift could be given any time.  Even that distinction I’m not comfortable with.

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Posted: 30 November 2013 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I wasn’t aware of a distinction between gift and present. However, in German and Dutch you don’t want to give a box labeled “gift” as it would be interpreted as poison.

Gifting sounds like one step removed from giving, thus to me it is a bit more alienated. But understandably, gifting is more specific in that it implies something wrapped in a box with a ribbon. You can give a lot of things good and bad, including guff and grief. I did not understand gifting as something trivial or secondary to the meaning of gift-giving, I just thought it was awkward. If something is important enough to give, it is important enough to use a few extra words to express it. I guess that’s one reason why gifting has a second class status.

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