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Gifts vs. Presents

Posted by Barney on December 02, 2003

In Reply to: Gifts vs. Presents posted by R. Berg on December 02, 2003

: : : In a discussion with a great Aussie blond (who will be nameless here) the topic of gifts vs presents came up. With some little reflection I told her that in my part of the western US there is some little difference, and that I personally use gift when I am talking about something given to an acquaintance or a business associate -- i.e a gift is given without necessarily a lot of affection. We give housewarming gifts to celebrate a new home of a friend or acquaintance.
: : : We give presents to our family and to those people where there is an affectionate relationship.

: : : Is there any rhyme or reason for the distinction elsewhere in the English speaking world?

: : I think a gift is something given; a gift of money, a gift of friendship, a fruit basket as a gift, but a present is a wrapped gift in wrapping paper and a bow, no matter what is inside as the gift.

: Hmm. If a present is defined as a wrapped gift, what do we make of "I bought the Christmas presents, and now I'll wrap them"?

Perhaps a gift is something that is freely given - even in secret - whereas a present is a gift presented in public. I have no idea if these are the correct meanings but, as an explanation, they give me a warm feeling: I prefer gifts to presents.