Merry Holidays, Happy Christmas!

Do you prefer to say Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays? It seems that every year people get all het up about other people saying Happy Holidays, and spread stories of doubtful veracity about people not being allowed to say Merry Christmas to avoid offending non-Christians, all part of the grand “War on Christmas.” Which seems to be largely in people’s heads, as most examples of it tend to be exaggerated or simply not true. At worst, most cases cited as part of the “War on Christmas” seem to simply involve acknowledging Christmas alongside other ways to celebrate this time of year, like the infamous Winterval festival in Birmingham (England) in 1997. It became known as a byword for the “War on Christmas,” even though it actually involved celebrating Christmas, Diwali, and secular events like New Year’s Eve (the front cover of the brochure featured the word Christmas six times and a picture of a Christmas Tree, and the word Christmas featured on every page). Continue reading

Straight to Heck

I’ve probably heard or read the word Hell a lot more in the past few days than I would normally. I touched on this briefly before when I wrote about swearing, but it is interesting how we treat the word. It seems logical enough that in countries which were strongly influenced by Christianity, the word might be a little taboo. People understandably tiptoe around the word a little bit, because Hell really is the worst place imaginable. Only the reality  when I was young was much different. I thought nothing of uttering a casual What the Hell? when surprised. I knew better than to go full-on WTF in the presence of my parents or teachers, but no-one would ever really bat an eyelid at What the Hell. Even as I was saying it, I never even stopped to consider the fact that the phrase contained the word Hell. It was just part of the whole exclamation. At the same time, I got quite familiar with the word heck, and its associated phrases, from American TV. But, in perhaps another one of my linguistic blindspots (though come one, I was a child), I never connected the two words. Continue reading