Whose Monday? Your Monday!

7206615_GA concerned Lingua Franca reader writes:

Perhaps it is just here in Gainesville, but I find that the radio reporters, especially those reporting weather, use the possessive pronoun when referring to time periods: “Your Friday will be sunny.” “It will be below freezing on your Monday night.” Is this modern usage? Does it happen in other places as well? Is it acceptable?

I’d noticed this particularly in robocalls and fund appeals from local arts charities—Support your Hartford Symphony! Support your candidate! Support your local NPR station!—almost always with the possessive pronoun emphasized. The first time I heard this use of the second person possessive, I felt a little teed off. Who said I had any ownership of these organizations or causes? Soon I managed to live with the practice, contenting myself with a sense of your not as an attributive adjective but in my Random House dictionary’s second definition: “2. (used informally to indicate all members of a group, occupation, etc., or things of a particular type): Take your factory worker, for instance. Your powerbrakes don’t need that much servicing.”

But your Friday and your Monday seem a bit presumptuous. I did a little sniffing around the Internet and found that, indeed, when it comes to days of the week, we seem to be owning them more often than we used to. As I write, CNN’s homepage announces “5 New Things to Know for your New Day.” TGI Fridays cleverly encourages us all to “Find Your Fridays.” A Fox affiliate offers “Your Town Fridays.” Soundcloud has offerings “For Your Friday.” Toledo News offers “Your Day at 9.”

English has always leaned heavily on pronoun possessives and on the second person. We don’t wash ourselves the face, as the French and Germans do (Nous nous lavons le visage; Wir waschen uns das Gesicht); we wash our face. And we don’t use a pronoun like one to indicate a typical person so much as we employ second-person address, e.g. You never know what will happen.

Still, this insistent use of the second-person possessive to refer to a day of the week, or a political party, seems to me to have a kind of collar-grabbing quality. It may partake more of the idiomatic usage suggested by Random House’s third definition: “3. (used to indicate that one belonging to oneself or to any person): The consulate is your best source of information. As you go down the hill, the library is on your left.” In these examples, as in your Monday and your candidate, nothing whatever is lost by shifting your to the except a degree of nuance. If I think the consulate is the best source of information (presumably about a specific subject), then it follows that I consider it best for you; if you or anyone else is driving down the hill, the library will be on the left. We don’t notice these usages, because they seem thoughtful in their personalization. The person using the second-person possessive seems to be focused on our particular situation more than on a general truth.

And that’s the source, I suspect, of the weather reporter’s quirk. You don’t get much more universal than weather, and reports of the weather were once considered the sine qua non of dull news. Now we have the Weather Channel, as well as louder, brighter graphics every day for the frenetic people who bring us wintry mix and overcast skies. No wonder they want to create the impression that they are speaking to their special someone. Ditto the advertisements I cited above.

When we’re grumpy (and note I am playing with a different pronoun here; I should really write When I’m grumpy, but I want you, my readers, to feel solidarity with what I’m about to say), we may react to WKBT’s “Your Monday Weather Update” with “Not my update, Buster, I’m headed for Florida!” But I admit to having been swayed by the local charity appeals. If it isn’t my local art museum, whose is it? And if it works as advertising, you can bet it’ll be around in the language for a good while longer.


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