"Merry Christmas"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sun Dec 26 18:48:06 UTC 2004

On Dec 26, 2004, at 9:51 AM, i wrote:

> ... some summary:... (2) "happy" is still frequent...

and now barry popik reminds us:
John Lennon used "Happy Christmas." I thought this usage was famous. He
to be in a group called the Beatles. They sold a few records...
_Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon  (Lyrics and Chords)_

john lennon is two generations back from now; he was born 9 october
1940 (just a bit more than a month after i was), so he's of today's
granddaddy generation.[1]  (startling to read that steven tyler of
Aerosmith -- walk this way! -- is now a grandfather, but he is in fact
an early baby boomer, born 26 march 1948.  ok, he's an american, not a
brit, and presumably he's always said "merry Christmas", so steven
victor tallarico isn't at all relevant to this discussion.  but i'm
still startled by this aging thing.  when did julian bond, who's almost
exactly my age, become an old man, as photographed by richard avedon in
a recent New Yorker?  a fierce old man, but definitely showing wear and
tear.)  oh, by the way, raymond briggs, born in 1934, is even older.

it looks to me like this generation in the u.k. was pretty strongly
"happy".  lennon and briggs are both decidedly working class in their
origins (and this fact is important in their art), but middle and
upper-middle class british friends of mine from this generation are
also strongly "happy"; those who've moved to the u.s. report having to
switch to "merry".

so what, if anything, happened in the succeeding generations?

by the way, did lennon move into "merry" territory late in his life?
as peter trudgill has documented, the beatles became more (americanly)
r-ful as they aged.  did this effect extend to christmas greetings?

[1] and yoko is even older.  claiming holiday privilege, i continue
irrelevant side discussion with a poem on yoko's birthday in 2003:
[5/16/03: a genuine lunch poem, after frank o'hara. written over lunch.
the servers were worried about me, because i was obviously weeping. i
comforted them.  the poem is colored by my sadness at the knowledge
that my partner jacques was within days of dying.]

  Yoko Ono is
  Still walking on
    Thin ice
  I see her and John
  Curled up on their bed
  Untidy and flagrant
  The day he died
    Was killed
    Went away
  Yoko is cool but
  I miss John
  You damned
    Earnest angry
  Boy who
    Sang for me

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu), enjoying granddaddyhood enormously

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