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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Christmas Comma

This year, at the last minute, The Man begged off attending the Midnight Service on Christmas Eve. Instead we trooped off Christmas morning at 10.30 for the Family Service. It began with the well-known old carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.  It's not my favourite of the traditional carols -- partly because it never made much sense to me. In my imagination I pictured a Dickensian scene of jolly, red-faced and rather rotund gentlemen with beer mugs in their hands enjoying themselves on Christmas Eve -- rather 'Ho, Ho, Ho,' for a church service -- or so I thought. But that was before I heard the Vicar's sermon for Christmas morning!

He pointed out that in the first line of the carol -- one of the oldest -- there is a comma after the word 'merry'. As long as I have been singing that carol, I had never noticed that. It means that it's not at all about 'merry gentlemen', but that we should 'rest joyful' that 'Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day.

It's still not one of my favourite carols, but I can't quite get over the difference that a comma can make! I hope you have all had a very Merry Christmas and send my very best wishes for a very happy New Year 2014.

23 comments:

  1. Interesting, never realized there was a comma and it does make a difference!
    Thx and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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    1. And very best wishes to you for a very Happy New Year!

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  2. Thanks for pointing this out and for giving new meaning to this song. Take care and Happy New Year.

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    1. And Happy New Year to you, too, Stephen!

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  3. I remember noticing that comma and realising what a difference it makes. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and wish you and The Man all the very best for 2014.

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    1. Thanks Perpetua and the same to you, too. I figured you knew all about that comma! ;-)

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  4. I've always thought of that carol the way you used to, Broad - I pictured sideburns, rosy faces and fat tums too. I can see the true meaning now - thank you for sharing. Happy New Year to you and your family.

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    1. I think we've been looking at the same pictures, Molly! Happy New Year to you, too!

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  5. I spotted the comma long ago. I've always rather liked the hymn for its semantics.

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  6. It does give the phrase a totally different meaning. Not one of my favorites, either, but I like it better now. :-)

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  7. Learning something new!
    By now, you're already welcoming the new year. May it bring you comfort and joy.

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    1. And Comfort and Joy to you, too, Rosaria!

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  8. Just catching up, Broad.
    Hope the car smash hasn't left you too nervous.
    Best wishes for 2014 to you and your family.

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    1. I've got a lot of catching up to do, myself, Gaynor. May you and yours have the best in 2014, too!

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  9. Our fanatical Welsh music mistresses at school pointed this out to us....but as you say, the general impression is of red faced chaps enjoying a drink!
    Have a great year ahead.

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  10. A coma does make a huge difference, not just in Christmas Carols.
    Happy New Year to you and yours.

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  11. Interesting about the comma. Also good that you weren't in a Christmas coma.

    All the best for 2014.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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  12. Dear Broad, because of all the years I worked as a line and copy editor in a publishing house, I am aware of the difference a comma can make. But I surely am grateful for your sharing what the vicar at your church said in explanation of the carol. I, too, never looked at the text of that carol. And so I never saw or considered that important comma. Such a difference.

    I hope all is well and that the memory of the car accident while you were in the States to visit your mom is so distant that it's faded to misty nothingness. Peace.

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  13. Ah well, I'm afraid I haven't sung carols in years so busy am I with pretending Christmas doesn't exist. bah humbug. sorry
    Anyway, I hope your new year is special and that all things come together for you all.

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!