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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Christmas Mysteries
My understanding had always been that the British were more likely to say "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Christmas", but that it was the other way around in the States, and that under American influence the H word was gaining currency here too. However, an Ngram of British written usage suggests that Merry is not only maintaining but increasing its ascendancy, at least in published sources:

Screenshot 2015-11-07 14.32.34

More than that, Merry is even more dominant in the States, and always has been.

Screenshot 2015-11-07 14.32.21

So there you go. Live and learn.

However, now I'm intrigued by the 20-year decline in American festive greetings from the early '40s to the early '60s - an era I think of as the epitome of the chestnuts-on-an-open-fire, ultra-wholesome American Christmas, with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Stewart, 34th St and all. Yet the number of Christmas greetings (at least in print) more or less halved in that period. Perhaps the association between Christmas trees and the Red Flag brought the festival under suspicion with the McCarthyites?

I first heard "Happy Christmas" in England. Never in the US. Here in New York we always said "Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah" and also "Happy New Year." "Merry" here always feels like a Christmasy word: "Merry gentlemen," as we heard the carol.

It was a long time before I realised there was a significant comma between the 'merry' and the 'gentlemen'! But yes, taking my cue from that song I always attempted to shift gracefully from merriness to happiness as the last week of December wore on. By Epiphany I was positively beatific.

Though having said that, it seems that Dickens put the comma elsewhere:

The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge's keyhole to regale him with
a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

"God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!"

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.

Interesting! Difference between "God bless you" and "God rest ye merry"? Spellcheck on my iPhone wants to capitalize "merry", as though it will only appear as the first word of a greeting.

Spellcheck on my iPhone wants to capitalize "merry", as though it will only appear as the first word of a greeting.

Or perhaps as a shortening of Meriadoc? :)