The Grammarphobia Blog

Party time

Q: Why do people on the East Coast “make” a party whereas those in the Midwest “give” or “throw” or “have” a party? I’m from the Midwest, like Pat, but I now live in NYC.

A: Yes, Pat is a former Iowa girl who used to detassel corn in the summer to help with her college expenses. The two of us now live on the East Coast—in rural New England.

As for your question, the Easterners we know also give, throw, and have parties. We don’t recall any making of parties in our neck of the woods. Maybe we should get out more.

The verb “make,” by the way, is very old, dating to the early days of Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons. There are similar words in Old Swedish, Old Icelandic, Old Saxon, and other early Germanic languages.

And, of course, we’ve been making all sorts of things—houses, ships, coffee, movies, fires, money, war, peace, and silk purses.

We’ve even been making parties since as far back as the 14th century. But those early “parties” referred to matches or tournaments or games, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

In the early 18th century, the expression “make a party” was another way of saying “make up a party,” as in “Let’s make a party at cards.”

We don’t find the exact usage you’ve asked about in the OED. But it’s alive and well on Google (what isn’t?), and not limited to East Coast party givers.

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