11

Got Mondegreen?

I was reading a piece in New York Magazine today by a writer who kept mishearing part of a new Taylor Swift song.  Even though she knew what the lyrics were, her brain kept hearing it incorrectly.  This is called a “mondegreen:”

A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or song lyric. For example, “I led the pigeons to the flag” for “I pledge allegiance to the flag.”

Coined by Sylvia Wright in Harper’s Magazine (The Death of Lady Mondegreen, Nov 1954) from a mishearing of a line in the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray: “They have slain the Earl of Murray, / And laid him on the green” (misheard as “They  have slain the Earl of Murray/ And Lady Mondegreen”).

When my daughter was little, she would sing along to Jose Feliciano’s Christmas song, “Feliz Navidad.”  Since she didn’t know any Spanish at that time, the chorus would always come out as “Feliz Blobby-blob.”  Another Yuletide song that kids tend to mangle is “Silent Night.”  A mondegreen of that tune (which I love) is:  “Round John Virgin, mother and child” instead of “round yon virgin, mother and child.”

Are you, or someone you know, guilty of creating mondegreens?  Have any favorites?

Feliz Blobby-blob, y’all!

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1

Here We Come A-Caroling…

From The Daily Kos and written by Bill from Portland, Maine:

For a jolly good time, substitute these for the originals when you go door-to-door this War-on-Christmas season!

      Dreck from Hallmark
(Apologies to “Deck the Halls”)

Dreck from Hallmark hangs so neatly
Falalalala La La La La
On the bigots’ trees so sweetly
Falalalala La La La La

“Don we now our FUN apparel?
What the hell? What the hell? What…the…hell!

Dreck from Hallmark sucks completely
Falalalala La La…[Facepalm]

                                 

Dear Santa, I can explain...

O Plagiarist!
(Apologies to “O Christmas Tree”)

O Plagiarist! O Plagiarist!
How blatant is thy stealing
O Plagiarist! O Plagiarist!
How ugly and revealing
I point at you—yes you, Rand Paul
You pilfer words and that takes gall
O Plagiarist! O Plagiarist!
How blatant is thy stealing.

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  Firm Handshake
(Apologies to “White Christmas”)

I’m dreaming of a firm handshake
Between Obama and Raul
Just a brief, chance meeting
A short, quick greeting
Would be kinda sorta cool

I’m dreaming of a firm handshake
A nod and smile to be polite
It will be a very odd sight
And will make the Fox News heads ignite.

[Drops mic]
[Throws underpants at audience]
[Gets ushered out of nursing home for terrorizing the residents]

5

Five Things You Didn’t Know About The “War on Christmas”

This is a great piece from the Houston Press by Jef With One F:

“Welcome once again to the most wonderful time of the year. Here in Houston the air is cool, the streets in River Oaks and Upper Kirby are festive as festive can be, gingerbread and peppermint-flavored everything adorns local drink menus, and the giant, soul-eating kraken that lives underneath the Galleria is already calling her annual sacrifices to her.

It’s also a time to watch some of my fellow Houstonians re-apply their “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers so that they can’t be mistaken for being on the wrong side of the totally made-up “War on Christmas.” Every year there’s yet another batch of yokels all eaten up with the belief that Christmas is somehow under attack from secular forces in order to, I don’t know, make Jesus cry or something. It’s martyrdom fan fiction written by people who have only the firstiest of First World problems.

While I could sit here for 700 words and lace a logical explanation about why the “War on Christmas” is stupid with penis jokes, instead I’ve got a better idea. If you’ve clicked on this link in a frothy rage, I want to tell you a few things you might not have realized about this war against the atheist liberal scum you think you’re waging.

5. The “War” Was Started By the John Birch Society: If you’ve never heard of the John Birch Society then you probably get a better night’s sleep than I do. Founder Robert Welch, a candy manufacturer, started off with a fairly legitimate organization dedicated to fighting communism in 1958, but like most people who made fighting communism a life-long goal what he started turned into a paranoid conspiracy that accused everything from fluoridation of water to the Book of the Month Club to being sinister, subliminal plots from hidden American commies to overthrow the capitalist nation.

One of their earliest campaigns, though, was the idea that Christ was being eradicated from Christmas celebrations as a classic communist strike at undermining religious belief in order to make people less able to resist the state. From the 1959 pamphlet “There Goes Christmas?!” by Hubert Kregeloh:

“The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand. They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda. What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.”

4. Using Xmas Instead of Christmas is Older Than American Secularism:The most common example of a Christian casualty in the “War on Christmas” is the fact that so many people abbreviate the holiday as Xmas. Clearly it’s the work of rabid atheists attempting to banish Christ from his own birthday (Which it isn’t, but for the sake of argument I happily acknowledge that it’s the day Christians celebrate Christ’s birth). This fixation ignores the fact that even people that regularly write Xmas, never say it that way out loud any more than someone pronounces Mrs. as Mars.

The practice of abbreviating Christ’s name with an X actually started at least in the first century, and appears in several early Greek New Testaments. X represents the Greek letter “chi”, and was often used by copyists for the same reason people use it today; to cut down on space and effort. In the 15th century, when printing presses came into play, printers still would abbreviate Christ, as well as Christian, Christina, and other derivatives with an X to cut costs. Newspapers and other publications picked it up from there.

They assumed everyone was smart enough to know Xmas stood for Christmas since it’s been that way for almost as long as the New Testament has been around.

3. Christmas as You Understand It Is Very, Very Recent: For most of its history, America really hasn’t given a damn about Christmas. It wasn’t a federal holiday until 1870, and for many years after that the idea that private businesses should give the day off to all their employees wasn’t standard. Before 1870, Congress was in session on December 25, and in early America several places outright banned the holiday as too Catholic or as a form of idolatry. The general attitude was that if you liked Christmas, have a Christmas. The rest of the country got on how it wanted.

Or it tried to at any rate… drunken riots on Christmas were actually the reason that New York City organized its first police force, and the holiday was regarded as worse than Halloween in terms of mischief and vandalism.

The reason we celebrate Christmas the way we do today is the same reason we celebrate most holidays the way we do. Around the time of the Civil War, there was a concerted effort to bolster a sense of unity through holidays like Thanksgiving (which no one else ever cared about either), and a big part of that was appealing to people’s sense of religion and family to basically create a forced day of generosity and brotherhood. Once retailers in the late 19th century realized that you could exploit that to make money on presents, Christmas as we know it was born.

2. Protestantism Helped Define the Holiday as Family, Not Religiously-Oriented: One out of every two Americans identifies as some sort of Protestant, which means that Protestantism has a huge influence on the way America thinks about its culture. While you find devout Roman Catholics in church on Christmas Day, even after midnight Mass the night before, a steadily increasing number of Protestant churches are closed.

Around the time that Christmas was taking off in a new, unified form here in America, an Anglican named Edward White Benson, who later served as Archbishop of Canterbury, crafted a potent combination of scripture lessons and carols specifically for the holiday season that caught on in a big way for Christmas Eve services. By 1920 The Service of Lessons and Carols had pretty much become the de facto manner of Christmas Eve worship by the majority of Americans. Many churches hold multiple services to accommodate demand.

Then in the 1950s America became almost radically focused on a Norman Rockwell vision of the family as the country’s ideal. According to a 2008 article in Time, “The image of family gathered around the tree became a Christmas icon that rivaled the baby Jesus. And Christmas Eve services — with their pageantry and familiar traditions — became just one part of the celebration, after the family dinner and before the opening of presents.”

So when you wonder why folks became more focused on presents and trees than going to church when referring to Christmas, it’s because churches openly began catering to the idea that the holiday be split between religious significance and secular family life, including gift giving commercialism.

1. There’s No War Because You Already Won: The most annoying thing about the “War on Christmas” is the way that certain religious people use it to portray themselves as oppressed minorities bravely fighting for their cultural identity in a sea of intolerant fascism. It’s sort of like how Ann Romney tried to convince America that she knew what life was like for the 99 percent because at one point her family was forced to live on dividends from stock. In both cases there is a whole lot of not knowing what in the hell you’re talking about.

Statistically, more than three out of every four people in America identify as Christians. That means they still outnumber the second largest group, the non-religious, by more than 600 percent. The only people that win wars against those odds are Scotsmen and characters from Star Wars.

If you look at the list of retailers that have been attacked for using non-Christmas terms like Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings over the last decade, you see that the second anyone says boo to a major retailer for not explicitly using the word Christmas in its advertising they immediately fix that. Wal-Mart responded to repeated boycott threats by the Catholic League in 2006 by making the word Christmas more prominent. The American Family Associate managed to force advertising changes in Target’s ads the next year over threat of a boycott, and also shifted Home Depot on the same terms in 2008.

I find it somewhat ironic that in a country where Christmas was outright banned in places, the most vocal infantrymen in the “War on Christmas” seem most interested in making sure that every store and institution in America puts Christ’s name as prominently as possible and to the exclusion of all else. Considering what we know about the holiday’s history here, that sounds more like an offense than a defense to me.”

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1

Somewhere, Sarah Palin is Smiling

Reposted from The Daily Kos and written by “Hunter.”

I just love the way this guy thinks:

“You can’t have Christmas without the War on Christmas, because if there’s one thing a certain (loud) segment of America is certain of it’s that the baby Jesus was born 2,000 years ago primarily to justify your own need to be a raging asshole to people. I see the Republican Party jumped aboard the asshole train nice and early this year.

In a tweet last week, the NRCC promoted the t-shirt, which reads “Happy Holidays is What Liberals Say” in a Comic Sans font on the front and “Merry Christmas!” on the back, for Black Friday.

As of Monday, the shirt looks to have been removed from the NRCC website. The online store is still selling a t-shirt milder version that says “Not Afraid to Say ‘Merry Christmas.’”

ChristmasLiberalsSay

The NRCC claims the shirt was pulled because it had sold out, not because anyone involved developed a sense of taste.

As John Avarosis points out, people who say “Happy Holidays” regularly include people other than the dreaded liberals, including Reince Priebus, George Dubya Freedom Bombs Bush, Bill O’Reilly, Fox News and the RNC themselves. (Also, too, one half of the vaunted Judeo-Christian hyphenated principles our country wuz foundered uppon, but during the months from September to December those hyphenated non-Christian types are all dismissed as practically Muslims; respect for the Jewish religion is, for most conservative Christians, a warm weather thing.)

Look, I understand where this is coming from. As I said, there are certain people who can only enjoy the holiday season if they think they are pissing other people off. If your point was to celebrate Christmas you could just wear a shirt saying Merry Christmas, but if your point is that liberals are terrible and that Christmas exists only as another reason for you to go around saying so, you buy yourself a “Happy Holidays is what liberals say” just so everybody you meet on that particular day feels just a wee bit uncomfortable to be around you, wondering if you are going to go off on one of your odd store-aisle rants about socialism again. This fills a deep-seated need in some people. You know—assholes. And assholes need shirts too.

I keep wondering if maybe we ought to make the War on Christmas a real thing, just as a farce. Non-Christians could start making an epic fuss over people saying “Merry Christmas” as if any of them actually gave a flying damn what other people say; we liberals could start printing up t-shirts saying “Merry Christmas is hate speech!” just to give some poor twit somewhere the Christmas vapors.

But that sounds like actual work, and I cannot imagine spending that much time pretending to give a damn about something that exists as outrage fodder only for a tiny minority of people for whom outrage is just as much a hobby as needlepoint or collecting potato chips that look like things. Spending the holidays (yes, there is more than one, hence the effing expression) wandering around town being obnoxious to people just does not sound like that much fun, probably because I am not an asshole.”

My sentiments exactly.

57

It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile…Or Is It?

Recently I wrote about my brother-in-law receiving a “sign” from his wife on the day she passed away, letting him know she was safe and that he could move on with his life.

I’m a big believer in things like this, even though I’m not what you’d call a religious person.  See my post “The Orthodox Agnostic” for the particulars.  Even so, I do believe we are connected to the spirit world.

I used to do Tarot card readings by email years ago and had close to one hundred of them under my belt before I took down my shingle, not because I wasn’t helping people but because too many folks had become dependent on me for advice.

The cards weren’t “powerful” or “magic.”  My view of them is they’re similar to a search engine.  You ask your questions and the answers pop into your head while you look at the cards.  I’d hazard a guess that if folks in biblical times could have seen someone using Google, they would have stoned them for heresy.

It’s the same with signs from the dearly departed.  My late father used to leave feathers for me over at my mother’s house as a way of telling me he appreciated what I was doing for her.

But my mother has been gone these past nine months and I hadn’t really received anything that I could definitively point to and say it was from her.  I chalked it up to the fact she always, always hesitated to try anything new because she had this fear she would somehow make a mistake and screw it up.

So I asked that she and my dad get together on this and let me know they were, indeed, together again.  A joint metaphysical effort, if you will.

And this time I asked for something quite specific.

The “sign” would be an Oldsmobile from the late 1940s or early ’50s like the one my parents had when I was a kid.  It was a light baby blue and the car my mother used when she learned to drive at the advanced age of about 35.  I remember lying in the backseat (no seat belts, of course) getting kind of nauseous from going around and around in an empty parking lot as my mother practiced her driving under my father’s tutelage.

This sign could come in any form—verbal, pictorial or written.  Didn’t matter.  I just knew that if I encountered it in some way, that would be it.

A couple of weeks went by and I gave the sign only occasional thought.  The thing about it is—you really can’t go “looking” for it.  It has to come unexpectedly, which is part of the thrill of having one turn up.

So, I was at our local park having lunch after one of my exercise classes and decided, on a whim, to walk around a bit in town and look at some of the shops.  We don’t do this nearly often enough because I’ve found that living in what is essentially a tourist town tends to make hermits out of us locals.  We go out of our way to avoid driving or parking on the main drag because it’s just that—a drag.  Consequently, we only do the “tourist” thing ourselves sporadically.  And it’s a shame because we have some great shops.

I’d gone up one side of the street and was almost down to the corner of the other side where I would go back across to the park, when I decided to go into a shop that I’d enjoyed in the past but hadn’t visited in a while.  It had an eclectic mix of stuff I like—funny, quirky and artsy-fartsy. I wandered in a counter-clockwise pattern from the door and found myself in front of a display of Christmas ornaments and decorations.  It was now September but I knew this display was kept up all year.

Last year, about a month before my mother passed away on Dec. 22, someone broke into a storage unit where we were keeping a lot of our stuff while we prepared to move from our place out in the country to our new house in town.  Luckily, this unit was the “overflow” one of the two we had and it didn’t have a lot in it of value.

However, the thieves made off with all of my Christmas decorations and ornaments, ones I’d had for fifty years or more.  Irreplaceable things my kids had made, or I had made when they were small, and old ornaments belonging to my late in-laws; also some my mother had when she was young.  Gone, too, were my daughter’s red baby socks with white pom poms on each cuff from her first Christmas when she was just a month old.

Yeah, Mr. Grinch.  I’m lookin’ at you.

I stood wistfully in front of the display.  I couldn’t have a Christmas tree last year because of the pilfered ornaments and my other holiday decorating was somewhat listless and not really in the spirit of things.  Understandable, given the situation with my mother.  So I gazed at the ornaments and gradually discovered that a lot of them looked like the old ones I’d lost.  They were undoubtedly new, but they were “antiqued” to look old and some were reproductions of the old Shiny Brite brand of which I had quite a few, thanks to my in-laws.  There was a wreath made with these “old” ornaments that was remarkably similar to my dear, departed decorations.  Even though I couldn’t take all of them with me, it felt like a reunion of sorts.

As I turned and started to walk back toward the door, I spotted a standing display of knitted Christmas stockings.  Each stocking was nearly two feet long.  My stocking from when I was a kid only came up to mid-calf on me.  It was red and white striped cotton and kind of grubby, but I’d kept it for over 60 years until it also disappeared with the rest of my things.

When I looked at the cuff on these new stockings, I found they had the same Santa figure standing in front of the fireplace saying “Merry Christmas” just like mine did.  Probably a pretty popular design from that era, but it strengthened the feeling of being reunited with my lost belongings.

I sighed and turned back toward the front of the shop.  A few steps away were some revolving racks with greeting cards.  These were all from independent card companies, not Hallmark, and they had vintage black and white photos on the front with funny sayings inside.  I picked up a couple and had to laugh.  Then, I picked up one that had a car with two ladies in ’50s attire standing proudly next to it.  I did a double take.

“Seriously?  An Oldsmobile?”

The car, although a convertible, was shown in three-quarter view with the rear end facing the viewer.   The iconic Rocket 88 insignia on the trunk unmistakably proved it was an Oldsmobile from the era I’d requested.  The photo was in black and white but the car was light colored—perhaps baby blue?

The impact of this encounter didn’t really hit me until the next day when I had an email exchange with my son in California.  He’d sent me a photo of the spot in the Pacific where he’d scattered my mother’s ashes, as per her wishes.  I half-mentioned that I’d received a sign from my folks and in several back and forth emails I finally told him about the Oldsmobile.  He said, “Oh, now I get it…I’m scared…but I get it.”

I’m not sure if he’s scared for my sanity or scared about the general “woo-woo-ness” of the experience.   Probably both.

Anyway, my folks came through for me (thanks to Dad) and maybe now I can feel better about moving on.

It may not have been my mother’s Oldsmobile, but it was good enough for me.

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