“Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you!”
Nursery rhyme and Christmas carol (frequently sung as a round)
When I was growing up in London following the end of WW2 we always had goose for Christmas dinner. Not for us a turkey. In fact, I don’t ever remember having turkey at home until long after I was married. Quite late on Christma Eve father would go to the market and buy a goose. They, of course, were reduced at this time so that’s when he went.
Later, after moving to New Zealand with my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman), I remember a particular Christmas at home with my family. By this time, the late 60s, goose had been superseded by turkey and Father in company of his son-in-law, took off as usual to purchase the bird. Well, these two men purchased the bird and then in a festive mood did a round of various pubs on the way home.
When they did eventually arrive home, much later than expected by Mother for dinner, they were without the bird. It had been left in one of the hostelries they had visited. Mother was less than pleased, she didn’t drink and didn’t think it was at all funny. I had to decide whose side I was on and while secretly siding with Father and DYS I nodded assent and support to Mother.
Some time later, and rather more merrier I might say, they arrived home complete with bird. Mother was placated, a late dinner was served and much laughter followed And the story of the bird was told on many Christmases that followed.
What happy memories.
And now, did you know?
- Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was the catalyst for the reinvention of St Nicholas into the jolly, fat image of Santa we now know?
- Also invented by Moore, Santa’s travels are invariably connected to reindeer. In the poem, they are pictured charging through a winter sky complete with strong, elaborate horns. But in winter reindeer lose their horns so are Santa’s reindeer all female or are they castrated males?
- Moore omitted to tell us that St Nicholas was Turkish. He was real and was born in Patara, Turkey. He was an early Christian and in the 4th Century, he became bishop of the district of Demre where some of his bones can still be visited. Little fact is known of him, only oral legends relating to his goodness and kindness to children.
- Another poem, this one by Frank Baum (who wrote The Wizard of Oz) told that Santa lived in a valley called Ho Ho Ho. American marketers quickly picked up on the poem and Ho Ho Ho became Santa brand’s catch cry.
- The song Jingle Bells never mentions Christmas and has no connection to Christmas. It was originally composed for America’s Thanksgiving festival in 1857.
- Nobody knows when Jesus was born or died. For many centuries people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day and the turning point in the long, often hard, cold winter. Some 300 years after Jesus’ (guessed at) death date, Pope Julius I announced that 25th December would be the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. As Christianity spread around the world, this date took over the existing festivities and became “Christmas”. The word Christmas didn’t come into being until 1032 AD.
- The bible doesn’t say that three kings visited the baby Jesus but refers to “Wise men from the east”. They may well have been astronomers (they did follow a star) or Zoroastrian priests and the fact that the three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are mentioned is the possible basis for assuming there were three visitors.
- And the gifts they brought. Gold and Frankincense would be acceptable but in ancient times Myrrh was very expensive and used in embalming dead bodies and was burned at funerals to disguise the smell of bodies that hadn’t been embalmed. Why would it be brought to a newborn child?
- And everybody’s favourite – Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. There have been 14 versions of this story.
- Four Calling Birds in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Originally it was four colly birds, colly being the ancient word for black (as in collier and coal) so colly birds were blackbirds. As time went by colly fell out of use and didn’t make sense so people started saying four calling birds. This doesn’t make sense either.
- Decorated evergreen trees have been part of December celebrations in Europe for many centuries reminding everyone that spring is just around the corner. The decorated Christmas tree became accepted in the UK when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the children were depicted in the “Illustrated London News” standing around a lavishly decorated Christmas tree.
- The use of X as in Xmas is not at all invalid or disrespectful. The word Christ was never part of Jesus’ name, it is a title assigned by later worshippers in Greek meaning ‘the anointed one’. In ancient Greece, the letter chi was written with a symbol very like an X and the title assigned to Jesus was Xristos and was frequently abbreviated to just X. So writing Christmas as Xmas has been considered acceptable for some 1000 years. Note early publications were charged by the number of letters so using X in Xmas was encouraged.
- The wassail ritual was an ancient pre-Christian custom of drinking a toast to the sun after the northern mid-winter approximately 25 December and hopes for a bountiful harvest in the coming warmer months. Hence the song ‘Here we come a-wassailing’ was a gathering of friends drinking a toast. “Waes Hael” in ancient English means “Be healthy” and the usual drink was a mixture of spices, apple juice and eggs. (Give me a G&T any time).
- Christmas was cancelled in England in the 1640s when Puritan law forbade churches to open on Christmas Day and banned home decorations, celebrations, carol singing and the creating of Nativity scenes. December 25 was declared a day of everyday work and fasting. The outraged populace made Christmas observances in secret until the Monarchy was restored in 1660 and King Charles II restored Christmas.
- And finally, a horse named Santa Claus won the Epsom Derby in 1964.
So there you have my list – as my son always says I have a fund of useless information. Enjoy it anyway.
A few days ago I wrote about Promises to Keep and was reminded that several of my posts ended in To Be Continued..and in fact they never had been continued. So I am making a concerted effort to make good and keep those promises made.
Today I shall start with the continuing saga of The Bonnets. In case you don’t know this saga started in June when Sallyann of Photographic Memories wrote a post about some bonnets left in a taxi cab and suggested that I might come up with the answer to why they were there.
Photo thanks to Sallyann at Photographic Memories.
Click on the picture to go to Sallyann’s post.
If you are interested in reading this saga, the links will appear at the foot of this post.
Caroline Fortescue (more usually known as Daisie) borrowed a couple of her grandmother’s hats to go to a 1950s party with her friend Charlotte. Of course, her grandmother Maisie was delighted to lend the girls a couple of hats and she and her two best friends Juliet and Imogen entered into the spirit and produced some hats of their own for the girls to choose which they preferred.
The party was a success (?) but when the girls awoke the next day the bonnets were missing and they had to confess to Maisie et al. Another string of adventures followed while the bonnets were located but as is usually the case with Maisie and friends involved, all didn’t go smoothly. In recovering the bonnets the two ladies stopped off for a light lunch before which they indulged in some shopping during which they each bought a new hat. And you’ve guessed it, the new hats to which the two ladies had treated themselves were lost during the course of the day.
So now the story continues…Thomas Stazyk commented after the last post “Yes . . . and what about that swarthy gentleman in the Panama hat seen lurking in the department store and later driving past Maisie’s in a late model sports car?” So that takes the story off in yet another direction.
After her two friends left, Maisie sat pondering the question of where were the new hats? She remembered she and Juliet had them at lunch and was sure that they had taken them to the lost property office. She recalled placing the bag containing the hats at her feet while she filled out the required form to take away the bonnets but had no recollection of what happened after that. So the very next morning she called the lost property office and having spoken to the same very helpful young woman, found that the hats were indeed just where they had left them the day before. Maisie thought to herself that any cleaner working for her would be instantly dismissed if she/he didn’t see such a large parcel on the floor when completing the evening cleaning tasks.
Anyway, so the bonnets were found and could be returned to their rightful owners. Juliet was called as was Imogen. Neither lady wished to upset their friend again in leaving her out of the adventure. Then having agreed where to meet, all three sallied forth yet again to recover their new hats and have a light luncheon before returning home. And the swarthy gentleman? Well that really does have to be the subject of yet another post.
This is the post I originally wrote on Sunday and then after it was posted, I got cold feet and changed it. However, I do know that some of you read the original before it was deleted and don’t appear to have been offended by it. So I thought I would re-post it. The changed bit comes after the wedding quotes. It might be a little different to the original but you get the idea.
“I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.”
For several years I acted as the Wedding Coordinator at an historic church here in Wellington. New Zealand is a very young country, so historic in this instance is only some 140 years. However, I enjoyed my time there and loved being involved with so many brides and grooms. Each year we had around 90 weddings, so there were plenty of people for me to interact with.
For whatever reason, today I found myself looking through some of the poems that had been read at the ceremonies. Of course, there were those that were used again and again, eg from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
“….Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two…”
and the Apache Blessing
“Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness,
for each of you will be a companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you….”
and of course 1 Corinthians 13
“… Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…”
And many others.
And then I wondered about synchronicity being at work. When I opened my emails today I found this. I apologise wholeheartedly to my blogging friends in Virginia but it is posted without malice.
Have a good day
Jean Mishra at Moonlightened Way tagged me for Mrs Sparkly’s Ten Commandments. Well I don’t know Mrs Sparkly but imagine she looks something like –
Elizabeth Taylor abt 1966
or maybe she is a witch and looks more like Morticia in the Addams Family. raising flesh-eating plants. In case this is Mrs Sparkly, rather than the Elizabeth Taylor look-alike, I have decided to respond to the tag and play along.
We are asked to respond to 10 questions (Mrs Sparkly’s Commandments), so here goes.
- Describe yourself in seven words. Well you all know how wordy I am so even the first one is a challenge. I am curious, friendly, generous, caring, loving, helpful, creative.
- What keeps you up at night? My busy mind churning out thoughts and words until I put it to sleep by writing all these things in the notebook at the side of the bed.
- Whom would you like to be? I can only be me but I would like to be more; more creative, more curious etc etc.
- What are you wearing now? Oh dear. A quick run to the physiotherapist has me wearing a plain white shirt, grey pants and the requisite lace up shoes because of the injury to the foot. Come back later and I shall be dressed not quite like Elizabeth above, but certainly in much better style.
- What scares you? The dramas unfolding in my friends’ lives that I can only watch.
- What are the best and worst things about blogging? Easy – the best is the fact that I can interact with new people around the world. I count many of these now as friends. The worst is those times when I have to delete some of the posts having been away for a few days and being overwhelmed with the number.
- What was the last website you looked at? Wellington City Libraries. Patricia at Today I Think wrote a review of the new Patricia Cornwall book “Red Mist” and I was looking for it at our library. They have it and I have reserved it!
- If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? Well what can I change really. Nothing, but I would like to be transported back in time to when I was younger and had the family around me.
- Slankets, yes or no? As I had never heard of slankets I Googled the word and now know that the answer is a resounding NO!
- Tell us something about the person who tagged you. I have only recently met Jean (in the blogosphere of course). She is an American living in India, but I don’t exactly know where. She is spiritual, inspirational and creative and I am looking forward to learning more about her in the coming months.
Now I have to tag five bloggers on behalf of Mrs Sparkly.
If you wish to participate please do so and have fun, but if you decide against it, watch out for my friend Mrs Muddleditch. She is grumpy and sometimes quite malicious and she will find you.
Mrs Muddleditch at rest
Or maybe the Morticia Addams version will. So be warned and beware!
Kangaroo and joey
More fun with words today. Do you know the term kangaroo words? A kangaroo word carries within its spelling (in normal order) a small word that is a perfect synonym for itself. The etymology of the phrase kangaroo word is derived from the fact that kangaroos carry their young (known as joeys) in a body pouch; hence kangaroo words carry their joey words within themselves.
An example of this is Blossoms – note that it contains in the right order the synonym Blooms or Respite and Rest.
Here are some others to have fun with:
and the answers –
And if that is not enough, what can you do with –
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I am going away for a few days vacation now that the big red Santa boot is off, so I shall not be posting on my blog for a week. But watch this space – I shall have plenty to share with you when I return.
Oh and I have just had a recollection – Captain Kangaroo when my children were growing up in Montreal. Whatever happened to him?
- Weekly Photo Challenge:Family (passionateaboutpets.wordpress.com)
Let me introduce you. Mrs Malaprop is a character in Richard Sheridan’s play The Rivals, described as “a comedy of manners’. It is generally thought that Sheridan devised her name from the word malapropos defined as
” malapropos is an adjective or adverb meaning “inappropriate” or “inappropriately”, derived from the French phrase mal à propos (literally “ill-suited”). The earliest English usage of the word cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1630. Malaprop used in the linguistic sense was first used by Lord Byron in 1814 according to the OED.”
Malalpropisms are quite different from Spoonerisms in that the words are used in a wrong or inappropriate way. Here are some examples from Sheridan’s play:
- “…promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.” (obliterate)
- “…she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying.” (comprehend)
- “…she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile.” (alligator)
But before Sheridan and Mrs Malaprop, Shakespeare had some of his characters speak using wrong or inappropriate words:
- In Much Ado About Nothing, Constable Dogberry says
- “Comparisons are odorous” (odious) and
- “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.” (apprehended and suspicious)
- In The Merchant of Venice, Lancelot says
- “Certainly he (Shylock) is the very devil incarnal…” (incarnate)
Obviously these comments were not mistakes on Shakespeare’s part. I think they were added to lend a little levity to the play.
And there have been some wonderful malapropisms made by people in the public eye:
- “We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.” George W. Bush. – I wonder what he meant to say.
- And my favourite of his – “It will take time to restore chaos and order” – Well gee whiz
- “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.” Former Dan Quayle, Vice President – Oh really!
- Allan Lamport, former mayor of Toronto said, “Keep this up and we will have a vicious triangle” – Interesting idea a triangle rather than a circle
- “If Gower had stopped that [cricket ball] he would have decapitated his hand.”. Farokh Engineer , Indian cricketer – That would have been worth seeing.
- “And then he [Mike Tyson] will have only channel vision.” Frank Bruno, boxer – Will he see underwater then?
- “Marie Scott… has really plummeted to the top.” Alan Weeks, British television sports reporter and commentator and
- Sarah Palin posted on Twitter a call to “refudiate”
the proposal to build a mosque on the site of the World Trade Center.
Of course, we can go on and on, and George W Bush seemed to have been the absolute expert on this form of speech.
But here we will end today’s English lesson. Hope you are not bored with my sharing my love of English with you. And a thought for you
- Not a talker (economist.com)
- Malapropism (abeyweera.wordpress.com)