Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Christmas in Europe

Ah yes Christmas in Europe, complete with Boxing Day in the U.K. (no it has nothing to do with pugilism) and the pope's Urbi et Orbi speech, and Christmas crackers (no you don't eat them). My ever jovial sister sent me this Christmas card from Rail Europe--- Be sure to click on the bit that says choose a destination-- and then choose them all, one by one.

Here's the link---

And this brings me to another point-- about the origin of the word turkey. We owe this of course to the British who mistook the guinea hens which they saw in the country of Turkey (and labeled them accordingly turkeys) for the sort of fowl they came across in America that seemed similar. Of course they were actually different birds. Our fowl did not come from Turkey, nor are they really related to the critters from near Izmir, but there you have it. Our Christmas dinner is mislabeled thanks to the Brits.

While I am at it, they also mislabeled the ottoman. The empire was actually the Osmanli Empire, not the Ottoman empire, and so the furniture should also be called osmanli by rights, but of course the Turks are by now used to the British mangling their language.

So if you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas (and indeed we are coming up on the proper Orthodox Christmas day), you will enjoy the greeting card appended above. Just sit down on your osmanli and have a guinea hen sandwich whilst watching the little charade provided by the train folks of Europe.


eddie said...

An American accusing we Brits of mangling the language, what is the world coming too? You'll be telling us you can drink tea ice-cold and heavily sweetened next!

Ben Witherington said...

You can of course drink such tea, but you really won;t enjoy it like I do :)

But then, I am an Anglo-American who has indeed lived in the U.K. for a significant part of my life. And yes, I hold those in the U.K. to a higher standard than those in the U.S., since the O.E.D. is the arbiter of English English, but not American English, which sadly or gladly is far more colloquial, prone to slang, and just bad grammar for that matter. I suspect however that Americans who came from England got some of their propensities to mangle other people's languages whilst in the U.K.

I shall not soon forget having dinner in Durham in the 70s with one of my British relatives who was a Cambridge grad, and he ordered the mine-stron soup (pronounced like the word mine and then stron with no e on the end) followed by the filet mignon (pronounced with the 't' on the end of the first word). Nor will I forget being in the sweet shop in Durham where I had the following conversation:

Me: "I would like some of that cake please."

Lady: 'No love, that's the gateau, if you want cake it's over here."

Me: "You realize that gateau is the French word for cake?"

Lady: "Don't be messing about with my English as a foreigner, are you having the gateau or are you having the cake?"

Me: "I'll have the gateau, which means of course I'm having my cake, and will be eating it too."


eddie said...

Was that Durham NC, or Durham County Durham? I'm a native of the North East of England, which basically means that I had to learn standard English when I went to University. I can mangle my mother tongue with the best of them - but I really can't drink sweetened ice tea!

Thanks for blogging this year Ben, I've enjoyed following on for the ride.

A. C. Mattern said...

>"So if you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas (and indeed we are coming up on the proper Orthodox Christmas day)..."

Coming from a non-liturgical religious background I'd be interested in hearing/discussing/celebrating these approaching holy days. You had mentioned Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Kingdomtide in the past. Any good resources to learning more of the historical context behind them?

Many thanks!