Dread words from the advertising lexicon

spa-pampering
Someone being pampered. It could only be worse if it were by candlelight in an indoor spa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

My dislike of the word ‘pamper’ suddenly caught fire recently. Walking through an English seaside town, I saw sign after sign advertising ‘pamper packages’ of some sort. There was competition to see who could offer the most ludicrously overblown one; fourteen hours of pampering and spa treatments by candlelight as you’re fed Turkish Delight by captive apes wearing golden chains, each trained to whisper because you’re worth it and smile sympathetically, their grave simian eyes showing that they understand and value you—they don’t judge. Continue reading

Do they know Xmas isn’t wrong?

chi-rho
Christogram (chi rho) on a mid-4th-century Roman coin. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Some people get awfully sniffy about Xmas as shorthand for Christmas. Wretched modern world, proto-textspeak, irreligious, ahistorical, next they’ll be calling it Pepsi-day.

As it happens, Xmas has been in use in English for centuries, and is recorded in a letter by the poet and polymath Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The ‘X’ stands for the Greek letter chi; in (ancient) Greek Christ is ‘Χριστός’. This abbreviation for Christ (often using the first two letters, chi and rho, Xρ) was common in ancient Christian artwork; it has an exceptionally long pedigree.

It may not be recommended for use in formal writing, and most publishers’ style guides are agin it, but it isn’t illiterate or crudely secular, a symptom of the commercialisation of Christmas.

Merry Χριστόςmas, everyone.

Paul Fishman (Bristol, December 2014)


(For more on the coin and Christogram see here.)

In which I try to persuade you that I’m not brave

BraveNewWorldThis is where I explain leaving my job to resume full-time freelance writing and editing after a break of a dozen years. Last week I wrote about being told how ‘brave’ I was (a chilling phrase), how I’d had a mixed bag of it last time as a freelance, and ended with the question, ‘What has changed to make this any sort of a good decision?’ Well now… Continue reading

In which I resign to become a freelance writer and editor (again)

book-reviews-typewriter-headerAt the beginning of the month I resigned from my safe and generally sound publishing job. From 27 September I’ll be a freelance writer and editor, self-employed and of no fixed salary. The response from colleagues has been characteristically generous and well-wishing, but on the whole I’d rather not have been congratulated quite so much for bravely choosing an exciting future. Continue reading