16 December 2015
Does Xmas make you cross?
And no. I don’t mean the festive season that’s rushing towards us accompanied as ever by Slade belting out their 1970s Christmas hit. Though of course you might loathe Christmas. Or not celebrate it even.
But no. I’m referring to Xmas the abbreviation of Christmas rather than the event itself.
I’m sure you won’t be at all surprised to know that that the usage of ‘Xmas’, like so many other linguistic derivations, goes back a long way. At least 1000 years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s really nothing new under the sun.
This 2004 BBC article, Why get Cross about Xmas?, takes a look at why this particular four-letter word gets people so hot under the collar.
Many people, and I fell into this camp, believe Xmas to be a relatively modern, lazy shorthand born on the high street. It’s certainly beloved of shop signs and headline writers. But I am now enlightened.
All that apart, the term was also a space saver. In a gospel manuscript the word ‘Christ’ would feature a lot. Given that parchment was an expensive commodity anything that saved space on the precious material would be welcome.
But, whatever the ins and outs of the origins of Xmas it was apparently good enough for the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote in 1801: “On Xmas Day I breakfasted with Davy”. Whoever he was.
Long unpopular with many editorial style guides, the 1948 Vogue book of etiquette stated that ‘Xmas’ should never be used in greetings cards. So if your wish is to be in vogue – then ‘Christmas’ it must be.
I’m with Vogue.
So, from AA Editorial Services HQ and Born again Swindonian, it’s Merry Christmas and compliments of the season whatever your belief systems might be.
And finally, because I’ve mentioned them, it would be rude not too: