Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Bit (More) of Controversy Over Xmas...

Given the recent uproar about the so-called [made-up] “War on Christmas”, (here and here) I am surprised – if not disappointed that those conservative bigots have not yet expressed their anger against the spelling of Xmas [a very common use in English-speaking countries]. After all, this could very well be the sign of yet another conspiracy to (literally) take “Christ” out of Christ-mas! Even the British considered the issued last year.

The X in Xmas is actually derived from the word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Greek for Christ). According to Abecedaria and Wikipedia, Χριστος used to be represented by Χρς, or Χς, and by ΧΡ in art and other representation. X represented the Greek letter χ (chi in latin). It was pronounced with an aspirated [kh], which is the first letter of Christ's name in Greek. Then, with the beginning of the use of the vernacular languages in Europe, when the ending was no longer relevant, the last letter was dropped and X alone came to represent Christ. Xmas first appeared in English texts in the 16th century and it is thus clearly not a sign of disrespect. The Oxford English Dictionary documents the use of this abbreviation back to 1551, 50 years before the first English colonists came to North America and 60 years before the King James Version of the Bible was completed.

So all in all, it is hardly a sign of disrespect. Boy, am I disappointed there is no battle to fight here!

As far as France is concerned, no question of shortening the French word Noël for Christmas. NO? EL? Hardly...
Interestingly though, the word Noël [from Latin natlis (dies), (day) of birth] was commonly used in Middle-English and is still known from the famous Christmas carol “The First Noel” (also sometimes spelled Nowel). Another sign of the former and long gone influence of the French language. ... [sigh!] when even the English spoke French... well... sort of!

NOTE: And if you want to be a bit more provocateur, in a (not so) true spirit of Xmas, you can always wish your conservative brother or sister a "Merry Fitzmas" of course.

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