November 22, 2005

pugs and puns

is this a t-shirt for people who like pugs or who hate pugs? (well, i suppose you'd have to dislike pugs quite passionately to shell out $20 for a t-shirt that documents your feelings).

``A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!'' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

``Bah!'' said Scrooge, ``Humbug!''

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

``Christmas a humbug, uncle!'' said Scrooge's nephew. ``You don't mean that, I am sure.''

``I do,'' said Scrooge. ``Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? what reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.''

``Come, then,'' returned the nephew gaily. ``What right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough.''

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, ``Bah!'' again; and followed it up with ``Humbug.''

although most people probably associate humbug with ebenezer scrooge from dickens's a christmas carol [1843] , the word has actually been around in the english language for a little longer. the OED lists its first use in writing (meaning "A hoax; a jesting or befooling trick; an imposition", now obsolete) for 1751. interestingly, it's capitalized in many early examples, as if it were a name, but according to the OED, its origin is unclear:
Many guesses at the possible derivation of humbug have been made; but as with other and more recent words of similar introduction, the facts as to its origin appear to have been lost, even before the word became common enough to excite attention. Cf. the following:
1751 (Jan.) Student II. 41 There is a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion, which though it has not even the ‘penumbra’ of a meaning, yet makes up the sum total of the wit, sense and judgement of the aforesaid people of taste and fashion!..I will venture to affirm that this Humbug is neither an English word, nor a derivative from any other language. It is indeed a blackguard sound, made use of by most people of distinction! It is a fine, make-weight in conversation, and some great men deceive themselves so egregiously as to think they mean something by it!
scrooge is of course also the name of donald duck's uncle. in german, sadly, he's simply known as "onkel dagobert".

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