Reproduced here with permission of A. Furlong.
From firstname.lastname@example.org (Anne Furlong)
Subject: Christmas and Yuletide: a small amusing anecdote
Date: Thu Nov 13 23:18:54 EST 1997
Organization: Memorial University of Newfoundland
On the subject of Christmas and Yuletide and whether it's appropriate for Christians to celebrate this festival, a little anecdote taken from the annals of the House of Commons in the UK...
At the end of the last century, there was a great "return" to "original" Anglo-Saxon ways and words, and this fashion swept the country. In an attempt to eradicate all the nasty foreign (especially latinate) words that had crept up on English speakers unawares, purists attempted to find Anglo-Saxon equivalents for all sorts of terms.
This purification of the language had, of course, a cultural and nationalistic agenda which naturally enough extended to questions of religious belief and practice. Words of common usage in English, such as Michaelmas and Candlemas and, yes, Christmas, were suddenly spotlighted as preserving perfidious papist attitudes and ideas in the affix "-mas", which is a contraction of the older word "Mass".
One Grand Old Tory in the House rose to denounce this "romanization" of the pure tongue of the Angles and Saxons. This fellow, who rejoiced in the name of Sir Thomas Massey-Massey, proposed the following:
"That all words incorporating this foreign papist incursion should be either replaced outright, or have the word "tide" inserted where the offended syllable currently existed. Hence, we would have "Christ-tide", and "Michael-tide" and so forth."
This daft but apparently harmless notion was being greeted with a roar of approval when one of the members of the opposition sprang to his feet, was recognised by the speaker, and trumpeted:
"I rise to support the motion of Sir To-tide Tidey-Tidey, and move that the House adopt his recommendation immediately!"
He never got to finish, of course, since the howls of laughter drowned out the last words as the original motion was exposed for the unworkable proposition it really was.
Is there a moral here? probably, there is - that we ought never to underestimate the power of wit to restore sanity and balance to our consultations on vexed and difficult questions.
St John's Newfoundland Canada
P.S.: Then there's the Member of Parliament who complained, "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion interferes with private life."
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