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Richard Nordquist

Kingsley Amis on "Merry Christmas"

By December 21, 2012

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Today's guest post is by British novelist Kingsley Amis (1922-1995).

Merry Christmas
It may betray excessive zeal to look for solecisms in Christmas cards, but here goes. The form of words above this brief article is the correct one, so never anywhere write Xmas for Christmas and also never print or write what many now do, Happy Christmas. Merry means among other things "given over to merrymaking or becoming merry, perhaps with the assistance of alcohol," a festive interval in the yearly round. There is a connection with the word mirth. In the past you went on to wish somebody "a happy and prosperous New Year." Unlike merry, happy connotes a settled state, one that might well last a whole year. But whether Christmas be merry or happy, remember not to pronounce the T in it.
(Kingsley Amis, The King's English: A Guide to Modern Usage. HarperCollins, 1997)
Season's greetings, whatever they may be.

A Collection of Classic Christmas Essays:


December 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm
(1) Steve Scott says:

Thanks for this one, Richard! One of my pet peeves.
I sometimes go so far as to write, “Merry CHRISTmas”!!

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