Song of the season

It’s time for that moving, rousing carol that makes this time of the year so special. I refer of course to the great seasonal song of Okefenokee County, the Pogolicious, Kellytastic “Deck us all with Boston Charlie”:

On Walt Kelly’s inspired nonsense parody of the winter carol in my blogging: a 8/1/07 LLog posting “Cousin of eggcorn”; and a 7/21/12 posting on this blog, “The Pogo files”.

The original lyrics (“Deck the hall(s) with boughs of holly … ‘Tis the season to be jolly”) are notable for their archaic language and broad jolliness, but in fact the Pogo version is the one that’s gotten stuck in my memory, so it always takes me a few moments to recover the 19th-century original. On the carol, from Wikipedia:

“Deck the Halls” or “Deck the Hall” (which is the original version of the lyrics) is a traditional Christmas, yuletide, and New Years’ carol. The melody is Welsh dating back to the sixteenth century, and belongs to a winter carol, “Nos Galan”, while the English lyrics, written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant, date to 1862.

… The phrase “‘Tis the season”, from the lyrics, has become synonymous with the Christmas and holiday season.

“‘Tis the season”, indeed — a cliché or catchphrase that annually rouses Baltimore Sun copyeditor John McIntyre to howls of pain and rage. You can watch the YouTube video of John’s annual holiday proscriptions here. Excerpts from the text:

in journalism the resort to trite language appears to be understood as an honorable ritual rather than as a failure to recognize the hopelessly hackneyed. So, for you who have ears to hear, the Holiday Cautions. Chestnuts roasting by an open fire are fine, but they can be kept out of copy and headlines by the vigilant.

“ ’Tis the season”: Not in copy, not in headlines, not at all. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. You cannot make this fresh. Do not attempt it.

“ ’Twas the night before” anything: ‘Twasing is no more defensible than ’tising. And if you must refer to the Rev. Mr. Moore’s poem, if indeed he wrote it, its title is “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

And on from there.

… Some readers (and, sadly, some writers) lap up this swill. It is familiar, and the complete lack of originality comforts them. It is for such people that advertising copy is written. There you will find ’tis the seasons in abundance, and you will now understand them to be a mark of intellectual and imaginative impoverishment.

But “Bark us all bow-wows of folly” and “Duck us all in bowls of barley”, now those are fresh lines that will truly catch readers’ attention. Only last week I stir-fried an assortment of sliced vegetables with strips of beef, to serve over mounds of cooked barley, for the traditional Advent Bowls of Barley.

(And for tomorrow, St. Lucy’s Day, rather than setting some young girls’ hair on fire, I’ve sautéed sliced vegetables in butter and will serve them on pasta hair — capellini or capelli d’angelo.)

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