Monday, January 02, 2012

Xmas? Yeuk!


Before Christmas, Chris, my boss, sent me an email about the Xmas lunch. I replied with a one word email: Xmas? In response he sent me this information.


Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. By the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. 
As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation C, or simply X, for the word "Christ" to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and "Xmas" became an accepted way of printing "Christmas" (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity).  
So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season.  Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church.  
It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. As with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out in full, rather than 
saying "exmas."  
Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the faith during Advent, and bring a little more peace to the Xmas Season. 

Which is all well and good except it wasn't because I considered it a dilution of Christianity or commercialism but simply that it is an aesthetically unpleasing word. And as an English teacher Chris should know better!
But thinking about it, it would only be intelligent Christians (or atheists, dr stu) who would know about the Christian abbreviation (I didn't before this, needless to say) so the use of the word in the secular world could still be a dilution rather a harking back to the old traditions.
And it's ugly. 
Don't you have words you don't like?

8 comments:

dr stu said...

Do you have words you don't like?

Floccipaucinihilipilification ;-)

Rhiannon said...

I don't like Xmas - but Xstmas is perfectly acceptable - although not much of an abbreviation -

CherryPie said...

I am not a fan of the word Xmas either. It seems to trivialise everything about the season.

Suburbia said...

It does look ugly I agree

Furtheron said...

in the modern world language both spoken and especially written is not what it used to be - for some reason we have imposed rules and constructs we're all supposed to adhere to... but language wasn't like that for hundreds/thousands of years. Look back at parish records etc. and peoples names are spelt differently depending on who wrote it down. Was that wrong? I don't believe so - it was how language evolved ... now we are forcing language into a regimented box and not allowing this growth. To me that is actually a sadness and a loss - so I support the Xmas thing now you've filled me in on the background...

No language or word is ugly - only the intended use of it

Ellee Seymour said...

I don't like abbreviations either.
Happy New Year to you Liz.

Liz said...

Too many 'i's in that word, stu!

Wouldn't save a lot, would it, rhiannon?!

Cherrypie, sub, thank you.

I disagree, furtheron. I'm not talking about the appearance of a word and I think that can be ugly. Some letters are hard and like K unattractive when written.

And to you, Ellee.

Rose said...

I remember many years ago our minister explaining the significance of "X" in Christmas, but I doubt anyone other than Christians are aware of it. I still don't like it. A word I don't like? Hmmm, taxes comes to mind first. Seriously, there are a lot. Americans have a habit of turning nouns into verbs, like "impact" or "prioritize," which I don't like.