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What is meant by Greeting Cards?

What are greeting cards and postcards all about?

What are greeting cards and postcards all about

Because of the varying progress that has been made in the development of customs, techniques and/or even legal regulations, it was difficult to establish, not only in Germany but also in other countries, the right linguistic hypernym (e.g. English: greeting card; Russian: open letter) logically reflecting, in the given language, the entire greeting card industry's products.

For instance, sympathy cards do not imperatively constitute the means for wishing well or expressions of honor. Cards without any printed inscription are not initially necessarily seen as greeting cards or postcards. At the same time, they can convey a scope of different messages.

While looking at postcards, things don't get much easier. The following paragraph is going to make an attempt to establish the revealing definition, whereas not only the professional jargon but also the consumers' colloquialisms will be considered.

Postcards can be defined as cards made out of cardboard whose weight ranges anywhere between 150 g/m² at minimum and 500 g/m² at maximum. A postcards' main purpose is to carry disclosed texts or messages. Postcards are sent without an envelope and a stamp must be affixed to it by the sender. If one side of the postcard is designed with a motif, it will be called a picture postcard. If, instead of the motif, the card displays location-related pictures, it could be called the local view postcard.


The basic postcards are made out of the 150g/m² cardboard which can be purchased either directly at German post offices or their agencies (Deutsche Post AG). They are sold and sent without envelopes. The stamp is imprinted above the lines reserved for the recipient's address. The blank left side next to the address field and the blank reverse side are determined for the written message.

greeting card is basically a sheet of paper or thin cardboard of varying shapes, which may convey greetings or another emotional message in the form of text, picture or image; the card can be left blank with space left for handwritten texts or may contain an already preprinted message with space left for a signature. Greeting cards must be enveloped and can either be passed on in person or mailed via post.

In a survey conducted in in the stationary departments of one of the largest German department stores in its individual chain stores in Bremen, Berlin and Munich, 738 persons have been asked to brainstorm spontaneously a superordinate designation for the industry's entire range of products. The survey results were as follows: 

60.7% of those asked, termed it "congratulatory cards" 
12.4% just "cards" 
8.5% "wishing well cards" 
6.2% "postcards" 
4.0% "greeting cards" 
8.2% named it a variety of other terms

It would therefore seem natural to use the hypernym "congratulatory card" for all the products this industry manufactures until other appropriate terminology is found.

Text: Günter Garbrecht 1998
Translation: Marcel Valtr, 2011

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