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Richard Nordquist

Christmas Isn't Christmas Without the Clichés

By December 8, 2010

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Today's guest blogger (by way of journalist Frank Sullivan*) is Mr. Arbuthnot, the Cliché Expert.

Q: Hello, Mr. Arbuthnot. You seem to be in a holiday mood.

A: I am. God rest you.

Q: Why, thanks. God rest you. Let nothing you dismay. . . . You sound as though you planned to celebrate Christmas this year, come hell, high water, or taxes.

A: I don't celebrate Christmas, I keep it. Christmas isn't what it used to be, though, when I was a boy.

Q: It isn't?

A: No. It's been commercialized. This present-giving has become a racket. I like a good old-fashioned Christmas. Oh, I do hope we have a white Christmas this year.

Q: Why?

A: Because Christmas doesn't seem like Christmas without snow on the ground. . . .

Q: Did you do much Christmas shopping?

A: No. I can't afford to spend much on Christmas this year. Spent far too much last year. I'm just getting a few presents for the children. After all, Christmas is for children, not for grownups.

Q: Did you buy a present for me?

A: Frankly, no.

Q: Why not?

A: Well, it's so hard to know what to get you. You've got everything.

Q: But a man can always use handkerchiefs.

A: Look here, son. I'm the cliché expert around here. You just ask the questions. Yes, a man can always use handkerchiefs. Also wallets, cigars, and neckties. . . .

Q: If you should change your mind, Arby, and give me, let us say, a combination pipe rack, alarm clock, necktie holder, nail file, razor-blade depository, and radio, what would I say?

A: You would say: "Why, Arby, this is exactly what I wanted! How did you know? A thousand thanks. Only yesterday I was saying how much I hoped someone would give me one of these gadgets for Christmas. My old one is about gone."

Q: Then what do you say?

A: I say: "I'm glad you like it. Now, if it isn't the right size you can take it back and change it, you know." . . .

Q: Where will you spend Christmas?

A: In the bosom of my family.

Q: Going to trim a tree?

A: Oh, certainly. For the children, of course. I wouldn't bother with a tree if it weren't for the children. . . .

Q: What does everybody eat on Christmas Day?

A: Too much. Their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

Q: Does Junior eat too much

A: No. Junior spoiled his appetite by eating candy.

Q: What is Junior's policy toward candy?

A: He'd eat it till it came out through his eyes. He has a sweet tooth.

Q: Why do you let him get away with this?

A: Oh, well. Christmas comes but once a year.

Can you think of any holiday clichés that Mr. Arbuthnot has overlooked? If so, click on "comments" below.

* During the 1930s and '40s, Frank Sullivan (1892-1974) wrote an occasional series of essays for The New Yorker magazine in which Mr. Arbuthnot expounded on the platitudes of the day. His trite reflections on Christmas are taken from "The Cliché Expert Testifies on the Yuletide," reprinted in Frank Sullivan at His Best (Dover Publications, 1996).

More About Clichés:

Image: Frank Sullivan at His Best, with an introduction by Herb Galewitz (Dover Publications, 1996)


December 8, 2010 at 5:56 am
(1) Lori A says:

Of course, it’s the thought that counts.

December 10, 2010 at 6:19 am
(2) Barbara says:

It’s time we put the Christ back in Christmas.

Alternatively . . .

It’s time we put the X back in Xmas.

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