Thousands of Massachusetts colonists rallied to the cause of American independence at the battles of Lexington and Concord, and dozens of patriots lost their lives.
Maine’s laws, however, imply that only one patriot was involved.
Maine statutes designate the third Monday in April as Patriot’s Day. A legislator’s proposal to change the name to Patriots’ Day didn’t go anywhere this year, but it could be back.
The holiday commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Those clashes between British troops and colonial militiamen touched off the American Revolution.
Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, told the Lincoln County News he introduced the bill at the request of a constituent and that he thinks the Legislature should make the change to honor all the patriots of those battles and to model proper punctuation for students.
Maine’s Constitution limits bills considered in the second, shorter regular session of each Legislature to emergencies, governor’s bills, those carried over from the first session and direct initiatives by voters. Johnson’s bill did not make the cut as determined by the Legislative Council.
Massachusetts, the only other state with a similar official holiday, spells theirs Patriots’ Day.
In Wisconsin schools, Patriots’ Day is a special observance day on April 19 or the preceding Friday or following Monday if the date falls on a weekend.
None of those commemorations should be confused with Patriot Day, which was established by Congress in 2001 and falls on Sept. 11.
There is a third option for Maine’s holiday, and that is to remove the apostrophe altogether and make it Patriots Day. University of Maine at Augusta English Professor Lisa Botshon said that would be her favored solution.
“This is a day of patriots if there’s no punctuation,” she said. “It’s not their day, it’s of them.”
Between the other two options, Botshon said Patriots’ Day is the better one.
“If you need punctuation, make it plural so that there is not just one patriot who is being commemorated; it’s all of them,” she said.
Although Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820, that’s not why the two states are the only ones with a holiday on the third Monday in April. Patriot’s Day didn’t become a state holiday in Maine until 1907, when legislators substituted it for Fast Day, a day of atonement that dated to the 17th century.
Maine was following in the footsteps of Massachusetts, which replaced Fast Day with Patriots’ Day in 1894.
Maine’s 1907 statute set the holiday on April 19. That’s changed, but something else remains the same: the placement of the apostrophe in Patriot’s.
Botshon noted that other names of holidays and organizations also raise questions about whether to use a singular possessive, a plural possessive or a plural attributive noun, which is what Patriots Day would be.
Presidents Day, another term for the holiday the federal government calls Washington’s Birthday, used to appear more commonly as President’s Day, Botshon said. But as the focus of the holiday has shifted from one president to many, usage of the apostrophe has decreased. The AP Stylebook says reporters should use Presidents Day.
Maine’s statutes show some inconsistencies in holiday names. The third Monday in February is called President’s Day in the section that defines what is not a business day, but it is Washington’s Birthday in the list of legal holidays for the judiciary.
Unlike Patriot’s Day, the punctuation of Veterans’ Day in both sections acknowledges more than one person.