Sunday, December 13, 2009


‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Wait a minute, something sounds wrong there . . .

“Twas”? Really? Nobody talks that way anymore. If old movies can be colorized, and old jokes can be decreed verboten because people are becoming overly sensitive to their diminutive height, hair loss, national heritage, or skin hue, then can’t we update a Christmas classic that kids sing in classroom all over the country?

“It was the night before Christmas . . .” That works just as well, and it sounds better grammatically, which is important in these times of rapidly declining student achievement. The problems with the poem, however, don’t end there.

It gave the luster of midday to objects below. Hmm.

As far as I know, there is a Web page designed for people to find out if there are lusters living in their neighborhood. Is Santa really on the prowl for sex offenders when he is out on his appointed rounds? I don’t think so.

Assuming luster means gleam or patina and not “one who lusts,” can’t we just say shine? Luster, gleam, patina, they all the same thing, except they are not as clear as “shine.” What could be more clear than “shiny as a bald man’s forehead”? Except we can’t say “bald” anymore (see above).

“Midday” is not exactly clear either. I think it means noon, but some wiseacre over in the next humor column cubicle says that midday is between dawn and dusk, and that can range all over the clock depending on the time of year. Assuming we are speaking of December 24 (remember, ‘twas the night before Christmas), midday on the west coast of the United States would be 12:08.

That might be close to noon, but it is not noon. In other words, it twasn’t. So we ought to lose the midday and just say what time it was. It gave the shine of 12:08 p.m. to objects below. I can live with that.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot

Really? Fur pants? I can see the hat and the coat, especially if the Great One had recently departed the chilly North Pole (where his closest neighbor is reputed to be Superman and his Fortress of Solitude), but fur pants in the lower forty-eight are just silly. Especially if the fellow wearing them is excessively jolly. That will just invite taunting.

Assuming the fabulous sled being pulled by eight flying reindeer has been upgraded in recent years, I’m sure there is a heater on board. Let’s lose the crazy pants and put on something reasonable. Dockers, for example.

And where is PETA in this whole conundrum? They should definitely be boycotting fur pants, whether it is fake fur or not. Fake fur pants are simply a gateway drug to real fur pants, especially during this time when everyone wants to feel Christmasy. PETA likes to say, “Be comfortable in your own skin; and let animals keep theirs.” They should include Santa in their recriminations.

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

How joyful an image! How healthful! A cloud of smoke, pumped voluminously from a stinky pipe clenched between his rosy cheeks. I can just assume that as soon as the song is over, St. Nick is coughing his lungs out through his brown teeth. As little Suzie or Jimmy wander down stairs to check on the “clatter,” they get a good five years’ worth of secondhand smoke in a matter of seconds.

Happy holidays, kids! We hope you enjoy the Christmas stench! Now, see if you can find that can of peppermint chewing tobacco that Santa left in your stocking! Speaking of stockings . . .

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.

Sure, in this case “jerk” means yank, or jolt, or twitch. All of you old people get it, but try reading the poem to a classroom full of prepubescent pupils. I did recently. As soon as I said, “then turned with a jerk” half the class started yelling at me.

“You said a bad word!”

“You mean ‘jerk’? Give me a break, kids, it’s just a stupid poem.”

“Ooh, I’m telling Miss Perkins. You said the s-word.”

I was certain I had done no such thing, until they informed me that “stupid” is the new s-word. The other s-word is too common in the movies and videogames that even the youngest children see that it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. But say “stupid” and you are suddenly the Anti-Santa.

Or “jerk.” You can’t say that at school anymore either. Unless you are talking about a substitute teacher. I have been called Grinch, and I have been called Scrooge.

But I believe this was the first time I was called a Christmas Jerk.

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