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The merriest of Christmas seasons to all!
This week we'll treat ourselves to words from Christmas caroling.

bobtail – an animal with a short or shortend tail; that tail itself
also, something that has been cut short or abbreviated
rag, tag, and bobtail – the rabble

Music, maestro!

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh;
O'er the fields we go,
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bobtail ring,
Making spirits bright;
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.
 
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incarnate – in the flesh; in human form;
also to realize in action or fact; as actualize; community that incarnates its founders' ideals
quote:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
[Tune: Mendelssohn, 1840]

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
 
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As I, and many of you, may soon be away from our computers, it seems well to send our Christmas Word-of-the-Day a bit earlier in the day than usual. The word appears in a poem, dear to my heart, that seems particularly appropriate this year.

belfry –a bell tower
Despite appearances, the bel– in belfry originally had nothing to do with bells. It was either bergan = "to protect" or berg– = "high place" (the second part is frij– = peace, safety); hence the old Germanic compound would be either "a defensive place of shelter" or "a high place of safety, tower." In any event, its Old French descendant berfrei = "siege tower" came to mean "watchtower" and, presumably because bells were used in these towers, was applied to bell towers as well. The form belfroi, which reminded English speakers of their word belle (our bell), entered Middle English with the sense "bell tower," first recorded in 1272.
quote:
Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;
written during the American Civil war

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet / The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along / The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, / A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound / The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn / The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, / And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, / The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

May this year's Christmas be the start of a year of peace on earth, good-will to men.
 
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It's good to be back. I hope and trust that each of you had a wonderful holiday.

oblation – the act of offering something to a deity;
also, a charitable offering or gift.

From "O Come All Ye Faithful":

See how the shepherds
Summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze!
We, too, will thither
Bend our hearts' oblations.
O come let us adore Him ...[etc.]
 
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quote:
its Old French descendant berfrei ... The form belfroi ...
I wonder if it is common for a sound to shift from r to l or vice versa. I'm thinking of "colonel", with the l letter but the r sound, and also of the difficulty that Japanese natives have in pronouncing our r sound.
 
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dint - n. force or effort; power: succeeded by dint of hard work
also, n.
a dent; tr.v. to put a dent in

Good King Wenceslas:
In his master's steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.
quote:
Those little valleys had the lines of a cup moulded round a woman's breast; they seemed the dinted imprints of some huge divine body that had rested on these hills. Cumbrous locutions, these; but through them he seemed to be getting nearer to what he wanted. Dinted, dimpled, wimpled--his mind wandered down echoing corridors of assonance and alliteration ever further and further from the point. He was enamoured with the beauty of words.
--Alduous Huxley, Crome Yellow, Ch. I
 
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Sorry to be so dilatory today.

wassail – a festivity characterized by much drinking; a toast to drinking someone's health at festivity. verb: to drink to the health of
Thought to come from Anglo Saxon wes hal = "be healthy". Traces back to Old Norse.

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, and to you our wassail, too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.


Here is the remembered finale of an Ogden Nash poem celebrating the joys of liquor.
quote:
Then here's to the heartening wassail
Wherever good fellowship's found.
Be its master instead of its vassal,
And order the glasses around.
For there's something they put in the wassail
That prevents it from tasting like wicker.
Since it's not tapioca
Or mustard, or mocha,
I'm forced to conclude it's the liquor.
 
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frankincense and myrrh – each an aromatic gum resin, used in perfumes and as incense.

Myrrh was a principal ingredient in holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:23). As it was also used in embalming, it came to represent mortality, suffering and sorrow (see carol below).

The sources conflict as to exactly what trees provide frankincense. Some (AHD) say those of genus Boswellia; others (Webster) say it can be either Boswellia or the (inferior) Norway spruce. The source of biblical frankincense is also unclear: Webster says it is unidentified; Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary says it was the Boswellia.

We Three Kings of Orient Are
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God on High.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Seal'd in the stone-cold tomb.
 
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