12 Days of Christmas (the song)

Now that it’s the official traditional twelve days of Christmas, let’s take a look at the song. “The 12 Days of Christmas” is an English folk song. There is a similar song in French too. Like most folklore, the origins and “original” version are murky. But there are some interesting things we can look into. For one thing, why is the true love giving so many birds? Partridges, turtle doves,

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Christmas jokes to delight your favorite linguist (via All Things Linguistic)

There are more jokes at All Things Linguistic, but these ones definitely made me giggle (quietly. There are overtired children in the next room.) How does a linguist wish someone a joyful Dec 25th? Merry/Mary/marry Christmas! What do linguists do under mistletoe? Make quadrilabial clicks Which carrot-nosed entity came to life in a particularly strident fashion? Fricative the snowman Who is a grammatical but unattested candidate for pulling a linguist’s

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“Christmas” by any other name…

“Christmas” itself has a fairly straightforward etymology. People might have a fear that the religious meaning of the holiday will be overpowered by the gift-giving party, but it’s sort of hard to forget because “Christ” is so prominent in the word. The word comes from the religious event of the day: a mass celebrating Christ’s birth. “-mas” (as well as the standalone word “mass”) comes from Old English “mæsse”, which

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Is “Santa” a first name or what?

Santa. Or is it “Santa Claus” and what about St. Nick? Or Father Christmas? Kris Kringle?? Are these all the same people? Is “Santa” his first name, or what? Growing up in California, I was always a bit confused about the name “Santa”. We have so many towns called “Santa” something. When I learned a bit of Spanish I realized that it was the Spanish word for “saint”. So how

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Mele Kalikimaka

When President Obama gave his December 16th press conference, he ended by saying “Mele Kalikimaka”, which means “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian. Or does it? It looks suspiciously like the English phrase, doesn’t it? A few extra syllables. And some of the consonants are different. But still almost recognizable. That’s because “Mele Kalikimaka” is not a translation of the words “merry” and “Christmas” into Hawaiian. It’s forcing the English sounds of

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What kind of a word is “Advent”?

Since we’re still in “Advent” rather than the “12 Days of Christmas“, where does Advent come from? Well, Latin. From the adverb “ad” meaning “to” and the verb “venire” meaning “to come”, combining to make a verb meaning “arrive”. But what’s coming? And to where? And is this related to “adventure”? Advent in the church calendar is the season leading up to Christmas. It’s Jesus who’s coming. And he’s coming

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The 12 Days of Christmas?

When exactly are the 12 days of Christmas? Wait: 12 days? Aren’t you starting a little late? It’s true that there are only 5 days until Christmas. But hasn’t it ever seemed weird that we have the song “12 days of Christmas” that we sing all through December (at least), so for 24 days leading up to Christmas. And our chocolate Advent calendars start on December 1st as well. 24

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