Even if you’re not a hardcore Star Wars fan, you must have heard the phrase ‘May the Force Be With You’ at one time or another. But have you heard the similarly phrased, ‘May the 4th Be With you’? What’s the meaning behind this pun and is ‘Star Wars Day’ connected to Cinco de Mayo?
Star Wars is linked to Cinco de Mayo now that people have associated it’s ideological catchphrase, ‘May the Force Be With You,’ to May 4th, the day before Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for 5th of May). May 4th is unofficially known as Star Wars Day with fans using the pun, ‘May the Fourth Be With You.’
As a Star Wars and pun fan, I’ll address this connection in this article. You’ll learn the history of this phrase in detail and how to respond to it. So next May 4th you’ll be ready!
What Is The Meaning Of ‘May The Fourth Be With You’?
In 2011, Star Wars fans gathered to organize the first official “May the Fourth” celebration in Toronto. With this level of dedication, it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore May the Fourth come May 4th.
The meaning of ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ is a pun of ‘May the Force Be With You’ from Star Wars. When someone uses the greeting, ‘May the Fourth Be With You’, on May 4th they are sharing their affection for Star Wars and also asking in a round about way if you are a fellow Star Wars fan, too.
If you’ve seen the original Star Wars movie, you will know that there is no mention of “May The Fourth” anywhere in the movie. This is a newer phrasing.
Instead, the original phrase in the movies (no surprise to fans) is “May the Force Be with You.” If that’s the case, where did fans get the idea of ‘May the Fourth’ (such as displayed on this Cinco de Mayo, May the 4th Star Wars Day shirt, available at Amazon)?
Quite interestingly, the first known usage of ‘May the Fourth’ phrase was a day after Margaret Thatcher’s election as the Prime Minister of the UK. On May 4, 1979, in the issue of the London Evening News, the Conservative party inserted a congratulatory phrase that read: “May the Fourth Be with You Maggie. Congratulations.”
Since this phrase rhymes with a recurring line in the movie: “May the Force Be with You,” it quickly gained popularity amongst Star Wars fans. After all, it makes sense that the nerdy Star Wars fans would also be fans of nerdy puns! And I can say this, by the way, as a fellow nerdy Star Wars fan.
This phrase is of course attached to the date, May the 4th.
Thus, fans began greeting (or closing) with the clever pun on May 4th since then. It’s also now commonly known as ‘Star Wars Day.’
Over the years, this phrase has become so commonplace that most people don’t even know about its history, or how to properly to it.
So what does the phrase ‘May the Fourth’ actually mean, then? Well, in regards to Thatcher, it was intended as an encouragement and wish that her position of power would be successful and good for the nation. It was similar to a blessing.
What about when fans use it on May 4th? Is it also similarly intended as a blessing like in the case of Thatcher?
In some ways, yes, it’s like a blessing or nice wish for good things toward someone when used. It’s like a familiar, holiday greeting such as saying ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’.
But more likely, in most cases, saying ‘May the Fourth’ on May 4th is a nod to your appreciation for Star Wars and you’re also checking if the other person is a fellow fan. It’s really just a fun way to acknowledge Star Wars.
Now that you know something about this phrase, it’s also important to learn a thing or two about the phrase that popularized this phrase: “May the Force Be with You.”
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What Does “May The Force Be With You” Mean?
It’s already clear that “May the Fourth Be with You” is a spinoff of “May the Force Be with You,” a popular phrase from the Star Wars movies. But what does “May the Force Be with You” mean per se?
‘May the Force Be With You’ from Star Wars is a phrase of good will. It can be used as a greeting, farewell, or encouragement. In the movie, it’s repeated a lot by the Jedi who use ‘the Force’, a supernatural energy field in the galaxy, as a source of insight and power to help others.
Perhaps one of the reasons Star Wars movies has been so successful is because of how it connects with ‘American individualism’.
Although in truth, the meaning of this phrase is highly debated, as there is no official confirmation of what it means exactly.
However, the most accepted opinion is is that it’s used to wish a person or a group good luck. This explanation works since it’s used in that light throughout the Star Wars movies.
However, other people believe that the phrase originated from the Latin phrase “dominus vobiscum.’ The phrase directly translates to “May the Lord Be with You,” and it’s pretty close enough.
The latter explanation sounds authentic, and as a Catholic, I can relate to the connection. But it is surprising if the writers of a science fiction film turned to Catholic Church phrases for inspiration. The similarities between these two statements could simply be a coincidence, which isn’t too unbelievable. However, when you consider the proper responses, it again gives mind to the Catholic faith (which we’ll look at in the next section).
Whatever meaning you attribute to the phrase, it’s evident that it’s meant for good will. Either you want the Lord or ‘the Force’ to work in favor of another, and so the intention is more or less the same.
Correct Response To ‘May The Fourth Be With You’
One of the final steps to becoming a complete Star Wars fan is learning the appropriate response to this phrase, ‘May the Fourth Be With You’. So how should you respond the next May 4th when greeted this way?
When someone wishes ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ on May 4th, you should reply by saying “and also with you,” or in a more loquacious way, ‘May the Force Be With Us All.” Both responses acknowledge the greeting in the same Star Wars spirit and goodwill intention.
However, if you believe the origin of the phrase to be from the Catholic church, a better response will be “and with your spirit,” as this is the updated, expected response to the priest in Mass when he says ‘the Lord Be With You’ and the congregants respond, ‘and with your spirit’. But granted, before the most recent changes, it was a similar, ‘and with you also.’
You have your options here, and you’re free to choose any that suits you. If you want to go with the majority, you can always respond to the greeting by saying: “and also with you.”
Other ways to respond appropriately to ‘May the Fourth Be With You’:
- ‘And May the Fourth Be With You’
- ‘And May the Force Be With You’
- ‘Thank You’
- Nonverbally with a smile and/or nod
- Or you can give a Chewbaca growl!
Who Invented ‘May The Fourth Be With You’?
While I’d like it better if this phrase was first said by a fan mispronouncing the iconic Star Wars phrase, that isn’t the origin of this phrase, as far back as we know. The first traceable use of the statement was in a newspaper ad on the May 4, 1979 issue of the London Evening News as mentioned before.
This advert was a congratulatory message for Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister to celebrate her election victory. The ad was sponsored by the Conservative party, which was the party with which Thatcher won the election.
Since it was attributed to the Conservatives, nobody knows the person that came up with the genius phrase to date., but it’s certainly stuck!
However, we can’t give all credit to the Conservative party, as the phrase would be quite humorless if George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise haven’t built up a lot of following for May.
If you’re wondering why May is an important month for Star Wars fans, you may be surprised that the first six Star Wars movies were all released in May. In addition to that, George Lucas celebrates his birthday on May 14th.
These circumstances created a pattern of fascination with May among Star Wars fans. When the Conservative Party came up with their ad copy, it hit well, setting off a forever trend among fans who already had some obsessions with the month.
What’s Star Wars Day?
Star Wars Day is unofficially May 4th. This is because of the pun, ‘May the Fourth Be With You’, to the iconic, memorable Star Wars phrase, ‘May the Force Be With You.’ Thus, May 4th is an obvious date for Star Wars Day.
It’s funny how things get started too. With the advent of social media and gifs, the ‘May the Fourth’ pun became almost instantly viral as a ‘meme’ and continues to make its rounds every May.
Special Consideration: The meme/pun, ‘It’s Gonna Be May’ from the N’Sync song, ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ is also viral every May.
What’s The Connection To May 4th/Star Wars Day And Cinco de Mayo?
May 4th Star Wars Day and ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ are connected to Cinco de Mayo because of their proximity on the calendar. Because they are one day apart, with Cinco de Mayo on May 5th, many have combined their celebrations, using Star Wars memorabilia alongside Cinco de Mayo festivities.
How can you combine your Star Wars Day with Cinco de Mayo?
- Dress up Star Wars icons with Cinco de Mayo Colors
- Watch Star Wars at your Cinco de Mayo party
- Use both ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ and ‘Happy Cinco de Mayo’ in your greetings on both days
Wrapping Up Star Wars Day And Cinco De Mayo
Star Wars Day is unofficially on May 4th. Because of the natural pun with the iconic Star Wars wish ‘May the Force Be With You’, ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ is used commonly on Star Wars Day.
- Many people celebrate both Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo because of their close proximity on the calendar.
- It seems the first usage of the pun, ‘May the Fourth Be With You’, was given to Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of England, upon her victory. Her party wished her ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ on May 4, 1974. And fans everywhere latched on!
- ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ and ‘May the Force Be With You’ are both goodwill phrases. They can be used interchangeably as greetings, goodbyes, or encouragement.
- The proper response to both phrases is ‘and with your spirit’ or perhaps ‘May the Force/Fourth Be With Us All’.
- It must also be noted that both the initial phrase and the responses are similar to the Catholic phrases used by the priest and congregants during Mass. When the priest says, ‘The Lord Be With You’, congregants should respond with ‘and with your spirit’.
I hope this info serves you well come next May 4th. Until then, ‘May the Force Be With You!’
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