Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Seasonable vs. Seasonal

Teri asked about the difference between seasonable and seasonal. In our day, they have different shades of meaning—although, to be fair, there can be some areas of overlap.

Seasonable means occurring during the right season. Think of synonyms such as opportune, appropriate, fitting, or congruous. Snow is seasonable in January here in Michigan. High temperatures are seasonable in summer.

Seasonal means characteristic of a particular season. It reflects things that change with the seasons, such as employment or merchandise. Being a ski lift operator is a seasonal job, as is being a lifeguard at a beach. Sales of snow throwers and lawn mowers are seasonal.

But you could say that selling snow throwers in winter is a seasonable activity and that selling lawn mowers in summer is a seasonable activity. That’s an instance of a slight overlap, though the original distinction is maintained by careful wording.

The characteristic error involves calling a ski lift operator or a beach lifeguard seasonable occupations. They are seasonal. Here is a misuse taken from a web site: “There are a tremendous amount of jobs that helicopter pilots do on a day to day basis. There are also quite a few that are done on a seasonable basis. Agricultural spraying is one of those seasonable jobs.”

Make that seasonal—twice.

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