Thursday, 10 December 2015

Slaughtering the Language.

There was a sales assistant in Homebase today wearing a sweatshirt on which was printed See me if you want a Xmas tree. The salient bit bears repeating:

A Xmas tree

When you consider the compound nature of the carnage thus wrought on the integrity of the English language, it doesn’t do much for the image of Homebase, does it?

I remember Tesco being pulled up some years ago for having signs above the express checkouts which read 10 items or less, and changing them for the more grammatically correct 10 items or fewer. It seems to me that whoever came up with A Xmas tree should be more than pulled up; he should be strung up.


Madeline said...

Surely the XMas is meant to be pronounced "Christmas," though, no?

Whole Foods circumvents the whole less/fewer confusion by calling the line "Ten items or so."

JJ Beazley said...

I suppose it probably is, but it isn't being pronounced, it's being read off the back of a sweat shirt. And when I read 'a Xmas tree,' that's exactly what I hear in my mind. That's why I feel that for the sake of harmonious linguistic flow and concomitant mental comfort, it ought to be treated the same way as X-ray and Xbox. It also brings other things to mind, like:

1. The question of why people feel the need to substitute 'X' for 'Christ' in the first place. Though not a Christian, I find the word 'Christmas' both pleasant and comfortably traditional. I find the word 'Xmas,' on the other hand, unnecessarily ugly, and I have my own pejorative theory as to how it came to be coined.

2. A trend I've noticed lately for a seemingly increasing number of people forgetting that English has two indefinite articles, people to whom an article is more commonly expressed as 'a article.' It's beginning to trend on YouTube.

And that's why, being both a lover of harmonious flow and respecter of the functional intricacies of my language, I take such exception to 'a Xmas tree.'

But thank you for putting me right. I remember saying recently that this world is no place for idealists, or purists or pedants if you prefer.

Madeline said...

X = Chi in Greek, as in the monogram Chi Rho (XP) which is used to stand for Christ. I don't know why the Rho got left out in Xmas. Maybe because XPmass looks stupid.

My preferred phraseology is "Merry Crystalmethmas." As in:

JJ Beazley said...

I do hope you're joking about the Greek bit (I have faith in your sense of humour, Maddie.) I prefer the theory that Xmas was coined by the commercial world as a sneaky ploy to switch the seasonal focus away from religion and onto them.

The greeting I like, and I have nothing but admiration for the way your quirky mental radar manages to locate strange things on YouTube. All I ever manage to find are different versions of Pachelbel's Canon.