December 28, 2010 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Tony Deyal column 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says the word most searched for online this year was “austerity” which means “enforced or extreme economy”.
Given the crowds in the malls, streets and stores throughout the Caribbean, and the many Caribbean people in Miami, New York and elsewhere in shop-till-you-drop mode (shop, drop the parcels home or in the hotel, shop again, then drop again and again and again), a lot of us neither searched for nor found it.
If I had a word for the year it would not even be the second word on the Webster list – “pragmatic” which means “matter of fact”, “concerned with practical matters” and “practical”.  Even though the times call for austerity, Governments are spending more money than they earn and we are doing the same.
In fact, many of us are spending more time and money ordering online than searching online for “austerity” and “pragmatism”.  I may censure the Government for throwing away our hard-earned money, but given my own love for Christmas, I will never blame anyone who, like a friend of mine, spent all his money on wine, women and song.  The rest he spent foolishly.
The words “moratorium, “furtive” and “ebullient” are also on the Webster Top 10 list.
They, too, capture the Christmas spirit in this year of austerity and pragmatism.  Nobody, least of all the Government grinches, are even considering a moratorium on spending for the Christmas and those of us who are going to find ourselves in debt from our Christmas spending excesses are not behaving furtive at all.
In fact, we are in, and imbibing, such high spirits that we are as ebullient as can be, higher than Santa Claus and with noses redder than Rudolph’s.
All these words from the economic downturn seem like a bad joke this Christmas.  Speaking of bad jokes, William Phelps, Yale Professor of English Literature, was marking exam papers shortly before Christmas one year and came across a curious answer to one of his more perplexing questions: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.”
Phelps returned the paper with the following annotation: “God gets an A, you get an F – Happy New Year!”  As if that isn’t bad enough, on December 19, the Telegraph, ran an article, “Top Ten Worst Christmas Cracker Jokes Ever”.   The worst was, “What’s Santa’s favourite pizza?”  The answer is, “One that’s deep pan, crisp and even.”
Among the entries was, “Why was Santa’s little helper feeling distressed?” Because he has low elf esteem.  Another asked, “How do snowmen get around?”  On an icicle of course.
Then there was, “Who hides in the bakery at night?” A mince spy.
At least these are better than two of the non-Christmas jokes in the Telegraph, “What do you call a man with a pole through his leg?” (Rodney) and “What would you call a woman who stands between two goal posts?” (Annette).
There were other words which made the grade.  One was “doppelganger” which means “a ghostly counterpart of a living person” and is of Germanic origin.  Had I a beard and wore red, with my increasing rotundity I would be a doppelganger for Santa Claus, who is also of Germanic origin.
The increase in girth is not the same as being a “bigot” which is also among the words most searched for (and not sought after) this year.  Dopplegangers, however, don’t have anything to do with gangs but Christmas in America did.
According to the Harrowsmith Country Life (December 2002) “At the turn of the 18th century, Christmas could be downright dangerous.
Back then, it was customary for bands of young men to go door to door, demanding food and drink in exchange for a song. If nothing was proffered, the gang was apt to trash the house… the holiday was often just another excuse for thuggery.
In 1828, New York City established its first professional police force in response to a Christmas riot.”  It is believed that they once attacked Santa and this led to another really bad Christmas joke, “What’s red and white and red and white and red and white…”  Santa Claus rolling down a hill.
This Christmas there is a riot of new words or “neologisms”.  One of them is Sarah Palin’s “refudiate” which seems to confuse “refuse” and “repudiate”.  I once got really sick one Christmas and, as my mother told my father, it was “defudiate”.  Of course, I refudiated that immediately and indignantly between burps.
Some interesting ones are “hasbian”, meaning a former lesbian, “idiodyssey” or an idiot’s journey through life, and “hatriot” which may refer to an extremist member of a militia group or even a liberal who is critical of his country.
A really appropriate one is to be “dixie-chicked” which means that your own fans or customers have turned on you the way the country music group “The Dixie Chicks” had their fans turn on them when they denounced George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq.  One of the other new words is “nagivator” something we have all experienced.
A “nagivator” is a backseat driver or someone who nags instead of navigates.
But seeing that we are into the season, here’s a really bad one, perhaps the worst ever Christmas joke, for the road.  Three men died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the pearly gates.
“In honor of this holy season,” Saint Peter said, “You must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven.”
The first man fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on. “It represents a candle,” he said. “You may pass through the pearly gates,” Saint Peter said.
The second man reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, “They’re bells.” Saint Peter said, “You may pass through the pearly gates.”
The third man started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women’s glasses.  St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, “And just what do those symbolize?”  The man replied, “They’re Carol’s.”
* Tony Deyal was last seen asking, “What do monkeys sing at Christmas?”  Jungle bells, jungle bells.  Merry Christmas everybody!

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