BL: Christmas, Xmas
Posted: 10 December 2015 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Tis the season

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Posted: 10 December 2015 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Dave Wilton - 10 December 2015 07:25 AM

Tis the season

Never thought that the X was attempt to remove the Christ from Christmas; I just thought of it as a simple abbreviation.

Thanks for the edification, for I never would have thought of the derivation of one letter. Very interesting indeed.

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Posted: 10 December 2015 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It was common practice in medieval manuscripts to abbreviate Christ’s name with an X or XP

The Christogram, XP (chi rho), goes back all the way to the Roman Empire. It was used on the labarum (the standard carried by Roman legions), after the Empire’s official adoption of Christianity. Christian legend says that Emperor Constantine I saw it in the sky before the fateful battle of the Milvian Bridge, together with a message in Greek (can’t reproduce it here), which in Latin is rendered as in hoc signo vinces (“in this sign you are victorious”).

Edit: see Wikipedia, s.v labarum

[ Edited: 10 December 2015 12:34 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 10 December 2015 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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in hoc signo vinces (“in this sign you are victorious”).

for some odd reason this slogan was on the packs of cigarettes my father smoked.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 12:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Your father smoked Pall Mall cigarettes. Perhaps the manufacturers, with their usual absolute sincerity, were suggesting that Christian piety would shield you from (inter alia) cancer, pulmonary emphysema, and peripheral circulatory failure. According to wikipedia, Kurt Vonnegut smoked Pall Mall cigarettes, calling them “a classy way to commit suicide”.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 03:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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If so, it’s an after-the fact justification. Pall Malls were introduced in 1899 and the logo, if not there in the beginning, was in place by 1918, long before any link to cancer and lung disease was suspected.

There is a second Latin phrase in the logo, per aspera ad astra (through hardships to the stars), which may suggest to today’s reader that a lifetime of hacking and coughing will lead to death and heaven.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Christmas has a rather straightforward and obvious etymology. It is Christ’s mass, the religious service and festival associated with Jesus’ birthday.

While this is of course true, you might mention the change in vowel quality and give an explanation for those who are curious.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Congratulations on meticulous fact finding, Dave. 

;-)

Nevertheless, I suspect that cigarettes were already described as “coffin nails”, long before the 1964 Surgeon-General’s Report made it official. I wonder if anyone has any early cites for “coffin nails”?

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Posted: 11 December 2015 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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CS Lewis made a deal of this in one of his essays. Christmas, I think he concluded, was the religious celebration and Xmas was the commercial devaluing of the religious holiday. I’m guessing that essay was in the 40s or so.

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Posted: 11 December 2015 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Nevertheless, I suspect that cigarettes were already described as “coffin nails”, long before the 1964 Surgeon-General’s Report made it official. I wonder if anyone has any early cites for “coffin nails”?

Coffin nail has been used as slang for a cigar or cigarette since at least 1888. From the OED:

1888 Texas Siftings 18 Feb. 8/1 A youth [...] puffed at an ill-smelling coffin nail.

And HDAS has this from Galaxy, 15 March 1867:

Pamela...tries to persuade me, that every puff of smoke...is a nail in my coffin.

Coffin nail is even older as slang for a drink of liquor. From Green’s:

1839 (con. 1703) W.H. Ainsworth Jack Sheppard (1917) 8: The worst nail you can employ is a coffin nail. Gin Lane’s the nearest road to the churchyard.

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