Tag Archives: Christmas

Happy Chriftmafs

21 Dec

The Tribune celebrated a birthday recently – not a milestone one, but still a pretty impressive number (it’s quite venerable, the Tribune). To celebrate, we reproduced an advert from its launch in the 1790s, and it’s striking how the stated mission then still resonates today, two centuries later.

Unbiaffed by Prejudice? Yef. Uninfluenced by Party? Abfolutely. Whofe Object is Truth, and the Diffemination of Every Species of Knowledge? How can you doubt it? (20 BEST POTATO RECIPES – FROM SAAG ALOO TO PERFECT CHIPS – FREE INSIDE!) Difpatched from London early on Sunday Morning? Give or take. (“Is there late football? I said is there late football? Well, that gives us at least 20 more minutes, doesn’t it? So we can we look for a better picture? We must have a better picture than this. Ask pics if they’re coming through yet. Look, it’s ‘news’. Some ‘news’ has happened and we’re a ‘newspaper’, so I was thinking we ought to try to get it in…”). Delivered in every Part of Great Britain with the utmoft Expedition? Well, see above. (“Whoever told you 7.20 for first wants shooting. We’ll have nothing for Scotland if you miss the trucks, and they may have to run long on the third at Manchester, in which case it’ll be fourth edition central London only and no slips, I don’t care if Elvis comes back to life, once the plate’s on that’s it, and we’ll have to talk about this on Tuesday because it’s SLIDING and we can’t HAVE IT.”)

Heaven knows what it must have been like trying to produce a national newspaper before there were railways, especially on the sabbath, and with the threat the mail coach might be waylaid by highwaymen just outside Finchley. Launching on 4 December, too – just in time to catch the Christmas advertising rush, although presumably they missed out an issue, as I can’t imagine that, three weeks after the inaugural paper, they published on Christmas Day. (This is one of the many unlooked-for benefits of working for a Sunday newspaper: every seven years, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday and, as all the newsagents are shut, you can have the whole of the previous week off.)

In fact, that’s going to happen next year: now there’s a cheery festive thought. On which note, may the blog take the opportunity to wish everyone an early happy Christmas, a freedom from all alphabetical viral variants and a lot more of what may conduce to the Happinefs of Society in the new year.

The most wonderful rhyme of the year

22 Dec

I know it’s the season of goodwill, but seriously, what’s going on with the scansion here?

The queue at the Post Office was so long that there was plenty of time to critique the Christmas cards in the display. This one begins crisply, with a line of iambic tetrameter followed by a line of iambic trimeter: dee-DUM dee-DUM dee-DUM dee-DUM/dee-DUM dee-DUM dee-DUM. The pattern then repeats, to create one of poetry’s classic forms: the ballad stanza. Four lines of alternating tetrameter and trimeter, with the second and the fourth lines rhyming (an ABCB rhyme scheme, as we English students like to say). That’s the way the Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written. A strong start.

But no sooner have we got going than the form is subverted in the second verse: we switch to trochaic tetrameter and trimeter (DEE-dum DEE-dum DEE-dum DEE-dum/DEE-dum DEE-dum DEE-dum.) Or at least we do for two lines, before, disconcertingly, slamming back into ballad meter for the next two in a way that really throws you if you’re reading aloud.

Inside the card, the next two stanzas hold the rhythm, give or take the odd syllable. But then you get to the conclusion:

“Amongst” should be on the first line, not the second, to make the tetrameter (you could then insert “of” before “men” to make the trimeter). The third line is fine, but the last line … I mean, it’s great to see a bracchius (dum-DEE-DEE) in the wild, but how would you deliver this in performance? Perhaps it would be best to just break the fourth wall, catch your beloved’s eye and speak it as prose.

This card costs a solid £4.59 and is very high-end – heavily embossed, pretend gold leaf, two appliqué hearts floating on the front. There’s attractive decoration on the inside faces and an illuminated four-page insert. But, alas, the prosody doesn’t come up to the standard of the printing. Even given the amount that foil blocking costs, you’d think there would have been enough margin to bring in an editor for 10 minutes.

But anyway, no matter. Enough of the textualist Scrooging: it’s the thought at the end that counts. To everyone, wife or no, the blog wishes you a very happy Christmas.

Chistmas cheer

23 Dec

The official card from everyone’s favourite liberal-left news source, circa 1980. Don’t worry, someone noticed: it never went out. (And even if it had, the night shift would have fixed it for second edition).

Happy Christmas, everyone!