Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Merry Christmas? No Such Thing

We're about two weeks out from Thanksgiving, meaning we're about two weeks into 'round the clock Christmas music on at least three Twin Cities stations I listen to. Two weeks of constant reinforcement and repetition of the stuff and I'm at capacity for enjoyment already. Now I'm in the phase of really listening to the lyrics and noticing some rather disturbing things. It seems some of the old standbys aren't as wholesome as we were led to believe. In fact, some of them advocate for the most grievous ills that plague our society today.

A few of the worst offenders:

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Rabid ageism.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two
Although its been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you

Now, I agree with denying the newborn segment Holiday greetings, they are barely sentient beings, it's just wasted breath. But what's up with an arbitrary standard for shafting the elderly? If you're 92, Merry Christmas. If you're 93, cram It with walnuts gramps.

Maybe it's foreshadowing of the kind of rationing to come under Obama health care and cap and trade reforms. We can't afford these old people producing all of this extra carbon with the caroling and hall decking and wassail punch drinking and breathing. Kids from one to, oh say, 62, Merry Christmas. 63 plus, don't forget you have an appointment with your district death panel on December 23.

From, a short list of those who turned 93 this year and are officially uninvited from the Christmas party. Please restrict your Season's Greetings accordingly:

Actor Kirk Douglas. Actress Olivia De Havilland. Historian Bernard Lewis. Dictator Raoul Castro. Former Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla. NPR commentator Daniel Schorr. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop. Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz. Former Norwegian Minister of Industry Finn Lied (Finn Lied,, Christmas Died).

To all of you, Christmas is over and it ain't coming back. Maybe you can look into Kwanzaa.

Holly Jolly Christmas

Sexual harassment.

Oh ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me

That's a request you don't hear every day. Hey, next time you and your lady are hooking up, whaddya say you find a way to work me into the mix? Who does this guy think he is, Tiger Woods?

It reminds me of a line from the holiday classic, The Jerk. Navin (Steve Martin) and Marie (Bernadette Peters) on their first date:

Navin R. Johnson: Do you think the next time you make love to your boyfriend you could think of me?

Marie: Well I haven't made love to him yet.

Navin: That's too bad. Do you think its possible that someday you could make love with me and think of him?

Marie: Who knows maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me.

Navin: I'd be happy to be in there somewhere

The "kiss her once for me" request is especially weird coming from Burl Ives. He was born in 1909, making him a centegenarian (that is, if he weren't already dead). Perhaps this indicates the reason 92 was the proposed age cut-off for being offered a "Merry Christmas". Offering it to men beyond that age risks a sexual proposition in return.

Winter Wonderland

Social Inequality

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married? We'll say: No man.
But you can do the job when you're in town.

"No, man"? Where is this meadow located, Haight Ashbury?

The use of "man" as a vocative expression I assume to be yet another charming contribution to the culture from the 1960s- early 1970s. For example, the 1971 Five Man Electrical Band hit song, Signs: If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner. And the ubiquitous generalized greeting from the era: "Hey, man, give me some drugs!"

However, Winter Wonderland was written in an earlier era. You can't blame the dirty hippies. In fact, you can't really blame the filthy beatniks or the moderately soiled bobby soxers either. It predates all of them, with the song being written in 1934.

So, if baby boomer juvenile angst, challenging of authority, and drugs are ruled out, what is the source of "man" as an informal term of address? For that answer, we turn to my favorite book, "The Dictionary of Epithets and Terms of Address" by Leslie Dunkling. (BTW, if you really want to stick it to a buddy of yours, call them a "Leslie Dunkling".)

According to Dunkling (heh), the use of "man" in this way has a long tradition in the English language, going back at leas as far as James Joyce and Charles Dickens Excerpts from the Dictionary.

"A commonly used vocative by mainly working-class speakers, usually address to an adult male but in many varieties of English addressed also to women.

American speakers use the term more than British speakers of English, which may reflect interference from Spanish, where hombre is commonly used.

Black Americans and British speakers of Caribbean origins appear to use the word vocatively more than other groups, though is also very frequent in e.g., Wales and English regions such as Tynesdale.

Used by middle class speakers, "man" is often used by a socially or professionally superior to a junior, especially if the speaker is irritated with the hearer.

Well that explains that. The ancestor's of the couple in Winter Wonderland hailed from Wales and/or the Tynesdale region, making them privileged white people. And they were offended by the impetuous question of a perceived social inferior and they put him in his place with a sharp answer! Take that you uppity snowman! John Edwards was right, there are two Americas.

Clearly the kinds of discrimination and hatred evident in these songs have no place in America during the Age of Obama. I call on local radio stations to cease playing these songs and instead concentrate on the more wholesome, unifying Christmas carols that reflect our values.

That's it for me. I'll just sing a little from one on the approved list on my way out:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay

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