Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day today in many parts of the world. I hope you’re being well treated if you’re one of the men honoured by the day. You really never can have too many pairs of socks. Like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s quite an artificial day, but I don’t mind too much really, as sometimes maybe we need a little push to be grateful. Or to at least express our gratitude.

The word father, like mother, isn’t one we actually use all that much of course, instead preferring works like dad, pop, papa et al. These words, like so many of our words to refer to our mothers, are derived from our first babblings as a child.

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Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, traditionally a day of extreme rest for those who celebrate Christmas, due to the exhaustion caused by the previous day’s eating, drinking, and resting. Unless you’re one of those simply awful people who get up at 5am to queue for the stock that clothes shops couldn’t sell during the year, now reduced in price. Then it’s probably quite a tiring day, but that’s your fault, isn’t it? For the rest of us it’s a day for watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and eating Quality Street and turkey & ham sandwiches. Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post for today, unsurprisingly about the meaning of the word Christmas. You can probably guess that it is of course a combination of the words Christ and Mass. It’s a shortening of Christ’s Mass, which makes sense as a name for the day, and was first recorded in the 11th century. Linguistically, there’s not much else interesting about it, as its meaning is so opaque. I suppose there’s the fact that we use on before special days (on Christmas Day), and at for longer periods of celebration (at Christmas). And there’s Xmas! Even though it’s often considered a blasphemous, secular, lazy contraction of the word, it actually has a religious background. The X comes from the Greek letter chi, which in English is Christ, so it’s basically identical to Christmas.

But yeah, Mass! I remember, like many an Irish child in the 80s and 90s, thinking about when I should get mass: would I get Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and enjoy the pleasure of waking up on Christmas morning knowing I didn’t have to get Mass, and could spend the day playing with my new toys.

I always tried to get Midnight Mass, but sometimes I was just far too comfortable at home on Christmas Eve, and I’d leave it for the morning, which I’d always regret, although Mass on Christmas Day was always okay, because everyone was in a good mood, and you knew the Gospel story would be a good one. Midnight Mass could be great though, it always seemed to have a really special atmosphere, which even the tipsy men fresh from the pub standing at the back seemed to appreciate. Even when I started to become less religious, I’d still sometimes enjoy Midnight Mass.

I only very occasionally find myself at Mass these days. It’s interesting how I still remember lots of the responses, and find myself automatically reciting them before I realise I have. Although no-one seems to remember when to kneel anymore, so it seems everyone just sits and stands.

So whether you’re going to Mass or not, or spending Christmas in any of the other infinite ways to spend it, (or not even celebrating Christmas, but still hopefully having a nice end-of-year), I hope you have a merry one!

Scapegoat

An innocent person deliberately blamed for wrongdoing, usually by the guilty parties.

This always seemed like a strange word to me: why a goat? The concept originally comes from the Bible, from the Book of Leviticus, when a goat is designated to take on the sins of the people and be cast out into the desert, thus freeing the people from their sins.

The actual word scapegoat seems to have entered the English language in the 16th century, with scape deriving from escape, i.e. the scapegoat allows the guilty to escape punishment. Continue reading