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Merry, merry, &c.


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We’d better have something a little less serious. Last week, I had a strange item on Germany — having to do with a Germany “whole and free” (as we used to say), rather than divided between East and West. I spoke of having addressed a Christmas card to “Frankfurt, Germany.”

And several readers said, “Jay, you doofus!” (Actually, they were much nicer than this.) “There are two Frankfurts in Germany. You should have put ‘Frankfurt am Main’ or ‘Frankfurt an der Oder.’” Well and good — but the truth is, I didn’t address my card to Frankfurt at all. I addressed it to Hamburg. I simply forgot, when writing my column.

I guess I can’t keep my hot dogs, wieners, and hamburgers straight. I probably knew the city had something to do with picnic or ballpark or Fourth of July food.

A little music? Well, I have a story or two about music, in a post at The New CriterionSee what you think.

A little language now? Language mixed with music, actually? In a podcast with Mona Charen, I mentioned “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” — the punctuation of the title, in particular. Many people don’t know where the comma goes. They hear “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” (which is wrong).

Well, I have another one for you — another “situation.” It arises in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” There are different versions of this great, immortal poem. But I believe the follow punctuation is correct: “Where meek souls [or meekness] will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”

Most people sing, and write, “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ …” — because that’s the way the music falls. That’s what the musical cadences lead you to sing.

But I believe the correct line is “Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”

Commas are important. Someone once told Bill Buckley, “Never depend for your meaning on the placement of a comma.” I can’t think, just now, who the someone was — but someone will remind me, a second or two after this column is published. For which, thank you in advance!

Okay, let’s have some notes from Ann Arbor. I was in my dear old hometown over “Christmas break.” (It has been a long time since I was a student, but I’m still prone to thinking in those terms.)

I see, now, that there’s a hookah lounge. We always had hookers, but not hookahs, to the best of my knowledge.

Speaking of hookers, there is a Safe Sex Store — which is very Ann Arbor, except for the “safe.”

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There is a store that says, “American Apparel. Made in the U.S.A. Sweat Shop Free.” (I believe I have copied that correctly.) I think sweatshops are abhorrent. But I can’t help thinking of what a friend likes to quip: “I wonder what those poor Third World souls would do instead of work in sweatshops. Put on blazers and go to Groton? Start tech firms?”

Also, it occurs to me that I’ve never seen a sign that says “Laogai-Free” — i.e., free of slave labor from China (whose gulag is called “laogai”). Walmart, for one, could not put up such a sign. But who could?

Back in A2 (Ann Arbor), there’s a store called “My Urban Toddler.” I’m pretty sure that’s the most pretentious store-name I have seen in ages.

But what to my wondering eyes did appear? In the middle of the University of Michigan campus, there was a sign advertising “God and Brotherhood Together — a Christian Fraternity.” In Ann Arbor? Blow me down.

One more thing: I’d rented a black Ford Fiesta — a hatchback. When I returned to a parking garage, there was another black hatchback, parked right next to it. The back of that car said “Porsche.” I had to rub my eyes a little. Underneath “Porsche” was “Cayenne.”

I’ve been out of the car world for a while — am I the last to know that Porsche makes a hatchback?

Instantly, I thought of a good-news-bad-news joke: The good news is, you own a Porsche. The bad news is — it’s a hatchback.

Have I committed “hate speech”? Believe me, I’d happily accept a Porsche hatchback. Even a Fiesta.

Have a good one.


Celebrating Christmas
Christians of many different denominations and traditions celebrated the most holy day in the Christian calendar on December 25. Here’s a look at the many faces of Christmas, 2013. Pictured, Cardinal Timothy Dolan prays during midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Pope Francis delivered his first Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) blessing at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. By tradition, his speech focused on the topic of world peace.
Catholic faitiful filled St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis's Christmas address.
Said Pope Francis: “Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue.”
“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment.”
Pope Francis kisses a baby Jesus statue during the midnight Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica.
Worshippers attend a Christmas Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Lighting candles at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.
Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, carries a statuette of baby Jesus during Christmas midnight Mass at the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers his Christmas Day sermon at Cantebury Cathedral in Canterbury, England.
Patriarch Bartholomew I leads a Christmas Mass at the Greek Orthodox patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, Turkey.
Offering a prayer during the midnight Mass at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C.
An Iraqi Orthodox Christian refugee sits at the Saint Afram Syrian Orthodox Church in Amman, Jordan.
Attending Christmas ceremonies at the Orthodox church of Malaia, Romania.
Catholic worshippers pray during Christmas mass at the Santo Nino church in Tacloban, Philippines.
Members of Saint Afram Syrian Orthodox church's choir pray during Christmas morning mass in Amman, Jordan.
Christmas Mass in Gauhati, India.
Celebrating Mass at All Saints in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Christmas Mass in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Nativity scene performance at the Catholic Church of Saints Simon and Helena in Minsk, Belarus
Lighting candles during services at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Children hold Christingles (“Christ Lights”) at a Christmas Eve ceremony in Hong Kong.
Christian worshippers attend a Christmas prayer in Surabaya, Indonesia.
Residents gather in San Francisco Square in La Paz, Bolivia.
Members of the Miners Brotherhood Joehstadt dressed in ceremonial garb attend an early morning Mass in Joehstadt, Germany.
U.S. soldiers attend a Christmas celebration at a base in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Catholic priests celebrate a special Mass for children displaced by violence in Bangui, Central African Republic.
Indonesian Javanese Christians children prepare for the Ngunduh Hujan rainwater ritual in Central Java, Indonesia.
Indonesian Catholic dancers perform traditional Balinese dance during celebrations at Hati Kudus Yesus Church in Palasari Village, Indonesia.
Lighting candles at St. Mary’s Church in Siliguri, India.
Outside a Catholic church in the the typhoon-devastated village of San Joaquin, Philippines.
Christmas morning in Dinan, France.
SANTA SEASON: Alongside the many religious ceremonies, Christmas remained in the air in the form of Santa Claus and other traditions. Pictured, a pint-sized Santa greets swimmers at Waikiki beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Santa Clauses greet children in front of the former Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Handing out candy canes at the Shepherds of Good Hope in Ottawa, Canada.
Dancers perform at a shopping mall in Seoul, South Korea.
Dancers dressed as Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) — the name for Santa Claus in Russian, Belarus, and Ukraine — perform during a parade in Minsk, Russia.
Revelers celebrate Christmas Eve at Xinjiekou in Hanjing, China.
Men wearing Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) costumes join women dressed as Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) in a parade in Minsk, Russia.
Lebanese Christians celebrate in Jiyeh, Lebanon.
Swimming at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.
Swimmers brave chilly water for the 104th Barcelona Traditional Christmas Swimming Cup in the Old Harbor of Barcelona, Spain.
Members of the Berline Seehunde (Berlin Seals) club swim in Lake Orankesee in Berlin, Germany.
Artificial snow falls on a Christmas tree at the Jumeirah Beach Resident in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Revelers celebrate a the Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus, Syria.
Hungry revelers wait to dig in to a 201-foot Christmas cake in Chandigarrh, India.
A U.S. soldier runs in the Christmas five-kilometer race at the U.S. Transit Center of Manas, Kyrgyzstan.
Major General James C. McConville, commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan (at left), poses during a visit with soldiers at Camp Clark in Khost Province, Afghanistan.
U.S. troops sit with Santa in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A Batman balloon makes its way along a parade route in Acapulco, Mexico.
Santa waves to fishermen on Christmas Eve off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile.
Updated: Mar. 01, 2014

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