May Day, Mayday!
by Bob Schwartz
May 1 is a very busy day.
It has been for ages a celebration of spring, with traditions including dancing around the Maypole.
It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday around the world. The date was set to commemorate the tragic Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.
In 1921, to neutralize the socialist/communist aspects, in America it became known as Loyalty Day (originally Americanization Day). Congress and President Eisenhower officially affirmed this in 1959 at the height of the Cold War.
In 1958 President Eisenhower declared May 1 to also be Law Day.
What’s sometimes overlooked is the coincidental similarity to the international radio distress call: Mayday! Mayday! This was reportedly first used in the 1920s by pilots in France. One story has it that it comes from the French “venez m’aidez” (come help me).
Is it just a coincidence? If you are a worker, or a lawyer, or someone who feels put upon by law or lawyers, or just about anybody feeling distressed on May 1, 2014, please feel free to say it loud. Though dancing helps too.
I think it’s an Italian guy’s boo-boo of French. The French would never say m’aidez; it’s aidez-moi, but the Italian guy mixed up the pronoun placement a bit. You’ll have to check me on that, can’t say for certain.
Thanks for your astute comment and for your continuing attention. I try to balance the posts between rigorous journalism and casual observations. Which is how you’ll find words like “it is reported”, not because it isn’t factual, but because deeper research isn’t appropriate for the topic. Your suggested etymology makes sense.
And you balance well. You write extremely well too. That’s why I follow; you cram a lot of knowledge into manageable, analogous posts. I always leave smarter.
Very kind. Thanks.