Thursday, December 17, 2009

Words Mean Things

Much has been made about the using the politically correct "Happy Holidays" greeting during this month. This offends me. Not because it negates Christmas, but because it's sloppy prose.

Stephen King is big on using specific nouns. Why say 'bird' when you can say 'cardinal?' Or pidgeon? Or buzzard? Each word conjures a specific and very different image. Why settle for a generic creature with wings and feathers when you can have a toucan or a penquin?

Specific nouns are always clear and crisp.

Same goes for greetings. Why say one thing when you truly mean another? If you're thinking Happy Chanukah, say so. It doesn't offend me in the least, even though I don't celebrate that holiday.

When we lived in Utah, we were wished "Happy 24th" the first July we were there by nearly everyone we met and I'm sure we looked puzzled. (Mormons celebrate July 24th even more vigorously than the 4th of July as the day Brigham Young looked out over the Salt Lake Basin and said, "This is the place.") Even though the greeting meant nothing to us, we weren't offended. We accepted the wishes in the spirit they were offered and we learned something about what was important to our Mormon neighbors.

And I hope you'll accept my very specific greeting in the same vein.


PS. I'm still over at Chicks of Characterization with a brand new "Never-before-posted" excerpt from A CHRISTMAS BALL. Leave a comment at Coc for a chance to win a signed copy!


Gossip Cowgirl said...

This is a *great* post, Emily. As a person who has friends from all different religions, I sort of instinctively celebrate with them when they have Ramadan or Yom Kippur, and I never thought of this. It doesn't offend me at all to be greeted by them on their high holy days (holidays). In fact, it makes me happy to celebrate with them. And I appreciate the sentiment, even if I'm not participating in the whole of the celebration.

Great ideas here! Thanks for posting.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Rebecca. Glad I was specific enough to be understood.

Jane L said...

Emily! I agree, sadly I use Happy Holidays often! It comes from working in retail for many years and one time I said "Merry Christmas" the customer chewed me out in front of several customers and I serioulsy almost lost my job my boss was so angry! I felt humiliated and saddened by this. For several years, I just didnt offer any greeting which is difficult for my outgoing personality! In fear I would offend someone! But I totally agree!

EmilyBryan said...

Jane--Wow! You can testify that the Grinch lives. I'm so sorry that happened to you. Obviously that person was dealing with other junk and you were collateral damage.

mrsshukra said...

And Merry Christmas... er... Mele Kalikimaka to you and your family, Emily!

librarypat said...

There are so many Holidays this time of the year. I will admit Happy Holidays is a short cut way to say Merry Christmas (Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, etc.) and Happy New Year. If I know some one well enough to know what holiday they celebrate, I'll use it in greeting.
People get too weird about holiday related things. A few years ago, my DH (who is a postal clerk) had a woman ask for the Christmas stamps. He handed her the madonna and child stamps put out that year. She got angry and threw them at him saying she didn't want any Catholic stamps. Everyone needs to step back and not get upset about the little things.

By the way, I found my copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL. It was in the bookcase next to your other books. Don't know how I missed it the first time I looked. Looks like this will be be a good weekend to curl up in front of the fire and read.

EmilyBryan said...

Pat--Of all the religious silliness in the world, the rift between Catholic and Protestant is the most incomprehensible to me. Why on earth can't we focus on the things we share instead of our differences?

Glad you found your copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL!

EmilyBryan said...

"Mele Kalikimaka, Etirv!"

Doesn't that Hawaiian greeting just sing? Some year, I have to spend Christmas in paradise.