Monday, December 10, 2012

Word of the Week - X-mas

1922 ad in Ladies' Home Journal




I remember, as a child, writing stories and assignments for school around this time of year and occasionally using the abbreviation "X-mas" for Christmas. I remember teachers telling me not to use abbreviations in my assignments, and I remember someone else (can't recall who) telling me not to use that one for Christmas because it just wasn't right to take Christ out of Christmas (or something to that effect) and replace it with an X.


So in my middling years, I refused to use it, thinking it somehow mean to Jesus...then later I actually learned where it came from. 

Pretty simple, really. The Greek word for Christ is Χριστός. You might notice that first letter. Our X, though it's the Greek "chi." No paganism here, no dark, dastardly scheming to remove Jesus from his birthday. Scholars started this as a form of shorthand. The first English use dates to 1755 in Bernard Ward's History of St. Edmund's College, Old Hall. Woodward, Byron, and Coleridge, to name a few, have used it to. And interestingly, similar abbreviations date way back. As early as 1100, the form "Xp̄es mæsse" for Christmas was used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

So. It's still an abbreviation and oughtn't be used in formal writing and more than w/ or b/c, but it's also perfectly legitimate as what it is. Always nice to discover something like that. =) And I hope as everyone gears up, they have a truly wonderful one! I'm happy to say we survived the crazy Nutcracker weekend around here. ;-)

3 comments:

  1. I actually KNEW that! This may be a first LOL. Glad you survived Nutcracker - we did that a couple years back, and it definitely was a "survival" thing :). Have a wonderful day!

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  2. I was aware of that, too (I speak a bit of Biblical Greek, so...). But despite its Christian origins, I know a lot of unbelievers who purposefully write "Xmas" as a way to not have to write "Christ." So, my personal policy is to only write "Xmas" to/around people who know its true origins, so no one mistakes my shorthand for taking the focus off Christ. :-)

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    Replies
    1. I really never use it either, but it's at least nice to know that the joke's on those unbelievers, eh? ;-) (And three cheers for Biblical Greek! I took it in college.) =)

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