Too early for celebration?

Today’s Bizarro, set in the Stone Age:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

Even if you’re generous in your understanding of when the Stone Age was, it was certainly over before the time of Jesus, and that is not just a tree decorated for some celebration of the winter, but it’s specifically a Christmas tree; note the star on top. So the tree is up at least 2000 years early (and probably considerably more).

On the Stone Age, from Wikipedia:

The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make implements with a sharp edge, a point, or a percussion surface. The period lasted roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 6000 BCE and 2000 BCE with the advent of metalworking.

(Yes, I know, the decorations for the tree in the cartoon could not possibly be from the Stone Age.)

On to the semantics of early (as adjective or adverb). Like most words in these categories, early is understood relatively (a typical case is the adjective large: to say that Basil the Rat is large or that Basil is a large rat is only to say that Basil is large for a rat, not large in some absolute sense), in one of two ways:

relative to a customary time: ‘before the usual or expected time’ (NOAD2)

relative to a particular span: ‘near the beginning of a particular time or period’ (NOAD2)

If you say that you’re celebrating Christmas early this year, you convey either that you’re celebrating before the customary time (before December 25th, or possibly December 24th) or that you’re celebrating near the beginning of the time-span for Christmas celebrations, the Christmas season — defined either as the commercial season, which in the US runs from the day after Thanksgiving to the January sales, or as the religious season, defined either narrowly (as embracing the 12 days of Christmas (or more broadly (taking in Advent as well).

Putting up a Christmas tree on Black Friday would be early. But the Stone Age is right out.


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