A new writer submitted a story the other day. A good story, too: well-written, informative, witty.
But something in the first paragraph hit one of my uh-uh buttons. What made the veins on my forehead throb was a single word: Xmas.
I really, really do not like Xmas.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Christmas, although I seldom celebrate it now that my offspring are scattered to the four winds.
I don’t get terribly exercised about the over-commercialization of what began as a strictly religious event (timed in an attempt to co-opt Saturnalia, the winter whoop-up celebrated by Roman pagans).
What twists my gizzard is the crypto-word, Xmas. Never liked it; never will.
Yes, I am aware that the letter X is derived from the Greek Chi, the first letter of Christos, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for “the anointed one”.
I’m also aware that Xmas has been used as a short form for Christmas for at least 250 years.
Xmas provides a handy shortcut in advertising. It also looks right at home on signs that display a shaky command of spelling – the kind that read, “Only 16 Day’s Til Xmas”.
I have no quarrel with X itself. Lovely letter. Countless generations have used it to sign documents and mark ballots.
For those of mathematical inclination, it stands in brilliantly for an unknown quantity. Scrabble players adore it. I myself find it most handy for marking the sweet spot on a treasure map.
For a certain manufacturer of photocopiers, the letter X is both alpha andomega. The glitzy glockenspiel has no use for it, but where would the humble xylophone be without it?
Let me note that I also have an inordinate fondness for the letter K. But (no disrespect intended to my colleague, the distinguished Klondike Kolumnist) I kringe to see it used as a substitute for C.
You won’t find me bunked down at Ken’s Kozy Kabins or a Kampground of America.
But I digress. Does my disparagement of Xmas mean I believe the antepenultimate letter of our alphabet should never be combined with other words? Of course not.
I don’t own an Xbox, I’ve seen only a few episodes of the X-Files, and I have no idea who the X-Men are. Yet I believe they all have a right to Xist.
But please, spare me Xmas.
I conveyed these curmudgeonly thoughts to a younger associate. The response surprised me.
The term Xmas was popularized in the ’70s as a protest against the hegemony of the Christian business and political establishment, my learned friend advised.
Wow. As a form of intelligent protest, that ranks right up there with shouting “Oink” at phalanxes of riot police. I can hear establishment bones quaking even now.
And why would we take our linguistic lead from the generation that visited the polyester leisure suit upon us?
Call me dinosaur, fuddy-duddy, tiresome old poop, I don’t care. I will continue to refer to December 25 by its Christian name – just as I would respect the holy days of any other religion.
As for that other Christmas, the one that’s more about money than mangers,call it Xmas if you wish. But why not go whole hog, and put a vertical stroke through the final letter?
End of rant. Feel better now, thanks.