Category Archives: archaic expressions

Expressions and Vocabulary


There are a few words that are ‘thrown around’ this time of year that

I was not completely sure of and wanted to know more about them. I hope

you will put up with another post about Christmas! I just love this time

of year and all the festivities and wonder!

These are words or phrases that I thought I knew but ‘missed the mark’

and learned more about the complete definitions and explanations.

1.) Did you know in the original “Twelve Days of Christmas” that the

Four _________ Birds were not “Calling Birds?” The original English

version calls these birds, “colly birds!” In 1780, this song was

included in a book, entitled, “Mirth without Mischief.” The birds

can be interchangeable in their names. So, we now sing the more

common and the other name is long out of practice.

2.) wassail- noun. 1. An early English toast to someone’s health.

2. A liquor made of ale or wine, spices and often baked apples

served in a large punch bowl, usually at Christmas. 3. Riotous


I wondered why people could go “wassailing” when it was all about

toasting, drinking and having a riot of a celebration? The word

eventually meant to go caroling.

3.) When they say, “We will bring some ‘figgy pudding’ I wondered

what this entailed, also.

By using the definition of “fig” you will find the word “trifle”

within it. A trifle can be a cake or treat…

fig- noun. 1. Usually edible oblong or pear-shaped fruit of a tree

of the mulberry family. Also: A tree bearing figs. 2. Trifle.

(Cake layered dessert.) I also could see that when you say, “I don’t

give a fig about it!” that is a trifle amount. So, there!

4.) myrrh- noun. A brown, slightly bitter aromatic gum resin obtained

from African and Arabian trees and used especially in perfumes or

formerly, in incense. (This is one of the Gifts of the Magi, the

Three Wise Men, who by the way, are not really numerated as “three”

in the Bible!)

5.) I know this is silly but I wondered if people ‘boxed’ on Boxing

Day, this is celebrated in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada

on December 26th! I mean I wrote it on my December calendar but did

not know the meaning of “Boxing Day!” It is a postal holiday that

is observed as a ‘legal holiday’ in parts of the British Commonwealth,

coming from a historical point of view, when they would give the

postmen Christmas boxes for their service as gifts.

6.) In ancient England, kisses were given under the mistletoe as a

ceremonial act of ending grievances! I looked up the definition

and this is not included in my Brittanica-Webster Dictionary!

mistletoe- noun. A green plant with yellowish flowers and waxy,

white berries that grows on the branches and trunks of trees.

In another book, I found out that the word “toe = twig.”

Sprigs over doors were symbolizing Peace to guests; not exactly

the romantic way that we picture it in today’s customs!

7.) Someone at work asked me to look up “partridge” and explain

why this is used as the First day of Christmas. I could not find

why it is the type of bird used, but here is the definition that

did have a pleasant, sweet looking drawing accompanied with it.

partridge- noun. Any of several stout-bodied Old World game birds

related to the common domestic fowl. In North America, a similar

looking bird is called the ‘bob-white’ or ruffed grouse.

8.) turtledove- noun. Any of several small wild pigeons especially

of an Old World genus, noted for cooing.

Both the partridge and turtledove are acknowledged as “Old World”

birds, so interesting to me!

9.) courser- noun. A swift or spirited horse.

No mention of a reindeer but this was the question that my 9 year

old grandson asked, “What are coursers?” while I was reading the

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” book.

10.) frankincense- noun. A fragrant gum resin from African or Arabian

trees that is burned as incense.

This definition sounds familiar, hmmm! the same as “myrrh” in most of

the words chosen to define these.

Last but not numbered, I learned a fascinating tradition about the

Yule Log:

Once this was a popular tradition, but rarely continued among the

‘regular’ people these days. It originated in medieval days, when

Yule logs were chosen on a specific date: February 2nd. This log

would be held in a location until New Year’s Eve of that same year.

So, once the log was chosen, it was protected and kept in a special

place of honor. It was dried outside from winter, through all the

seasons, until December 31st. This was a family custom that has

gone by the wayside. I think it would be a wonderful one to start

again, because it has a purpose! It becomes a forgiving force of


Here is how it goes… A piece of this log becomes the way to light

the “yule fire.” The directions say to use this piece of the saved

log as a “foundation of the Yule fire.” Nowadays, to continue this

or renew this meaning as a family tradition, it would include any

log could be used along with decorating it with ribbons or using

chemicals to produce colored flames.

Burning this to “ash” all the bad feeling or hard times of the

past year away. This previous year could also be considered by

writing notes on pieces of paper, folding them, with the content

meant to be the bad feelings, illnesses or hard times family

members experienced. By writing them, then folding them up

and throwing them upon the fire, any problems, quarrels or

grudges may be forgotten.

In France, the bakers in bakeries make delicious cakes that

are called, buche de Noel.” The cakes are in the shape of a

Yule log. Knowing how I love French pastries, I am sure this

would be scrumptious! I would like to have this on New Year’s


Fully Engaged vs. Disengaged Parenting


While eating at a family restaurant, Bob Evans, last Friday evening

my friend and I noticed a group of people that were related at the

next table. I am going to say they probably were a family but their

meal did not “look” like a family meal. Both my friend and I placed

a “judgement” on their dining out together. We were watching off

and on, throughout the meal how they acted towards each other.

There were two children and two adults, a man and a woman who

ordered their meal and then proceeded to ignore their children.

The children were surpisingly quiet but they colored, fidgeted and

yet were not disruptive. One girl got under the table, only about

five years old, the other one, a boy, who may have been seven or

so, mentioned to his parents, “Sophie is under the table.”

What were the parents doing? Both were either checking emails

or writing texts the entire meal. I heard only a few words uttered

towards the children, “Behave yourself!” and “Get out from under

that table, Sophie!”

When the children were messy, the father sharply and rather loudly

told his “wife?” partner, date, who would know since they just didn’t

seem to “act like a famly!”

“Will you get that ketchup off Stevie’s face?” and

“Sophie, act like a lady!”

Then, when partner did not respond, said, “For Pete’s sake, Stevie,

don’t you feel the mess on your face? You have ketchup all over your


I remarked to my friend, “I wonder if they still adhere to those archaic


“Children are best to be seen and not heard!”

Then, we launched into a discussion about my recent grocery store

experience. There was a woman who was almost frantic in her arm

movements and facial expressions. She was rushing with two kids

in her cart. One of those carts that have a car with seats in it that

fits children who are pushed along with the groceries. When she

got upset, had stopped to study some products and out popped

one of the children, out of the cart, she grabbed the little tyke’s

arm and proceeded to give a quick smack on his rump.

While doing this, she said these famous words that many parents

used to say, ‘ This will teach you to stay in the cart! You better

learn how to act in a grocery store!” Of course, the child may have

been exaggerating his “hurt” but he did let out a bellow!

This promptly was accompanied by another smack on his behind.

I am not saying this is “bad” nor needing social services’ attention!

I just would like to share a novel idea that my oldest daughter came

up with.

My daughter went to a store around here called the Dollar Tree. She

bought three coupon holders that have different sections in them.

My grandsons were only 3 and 6 when she decided that going to

the grocery store meant if she were going to get exercise, going

up and down the aisles, then her two boys needed it, too. While

at home, she gave each child a pair of safety scissors and gave

them some coupons to cut. She always gets a set or two from

my “bag” that I get at my apartment. People are always throwing

them away. The 3 year old used t draw circles with his crayons for

the products he would like to look for. Now that he is four years

old, he cuts the ones he likes. (Toddlers do need extra time to cut

because this is usually a hand over hand activity.)

Also, my daughter will cut the names off the cereal boxes, like

Cheerios and Raisin Bran to give them to put in their coupon

holders. My one grandson likes to write down ideas while watching

t.v. at night, when he sees commercials.

What is all this time spent with the boys doing? It is engaging their

interest in a rather tedious and boring activity. They enjoy this! They

don’t realize that grocery shopping is a “chore.” They think it is an


If you are from somewhere else, or have no idea what a coupon

holder is, it is a sectioned off folder that is about the size of a wallet.

The sections have fruits and vegetables, cereals or breads, frozen

foods, cleaning products, etc. I am sure they vary but it has a big

rubber band attached that keeps it all closed up until needed to

be looked at.

While at the doctor’s office, when I would take literally my own

3 children plus 4-5 extras (my babysitting crew) I would bring a

backpack with little books, tablets and drawing materials. I would

also show the older kids how to make those dots on a page that

you can connect to make squares and put your initial into. My

six grandchildren have seen this way of making up a game out

of nothing. The youngest, age 2, doesn’t know how to do it, but

she will watch and sometimes her older sister, Lara, will call it

a “team effort.”

When there are some parents who say those other archaic words,

“Act like a lady!”

I am always wondering do they mean one of these fine women who

were leaders, innovators, strong examples, or professionals?

Somehow, the words don’t apply to Annie Oakley, Amelia Earhart,

Gloria Steinhem, Clara Barton, Madame Marie Curie, Eleanor

Roosevelt and I would think that sweet as she was, even Mother

Theresa would say, “Please don’t define me as a lady, don’t give

me a label like that!”

Lastly, I am going to strongly “pan” a new television show. If you

have not seen the new show, “Mom” please don’t waste your time!

It has two fine actresses who are also funny comediennes, Anna

Faris and Allison Janney. If you have never seen West Wing, then

you missed a great show and Ms. Janney was a wonderful part

of why I enjoyed it. She has also been in a number of movies,

including what is a sweet story, “Juno.” Although it has teen

pregnancy in it, it has nothing else similar to the new t.v. show.

“Mom” has a story line where the grandmother (Ms. Janney) of the

family was a teen mother, she drank, did cocaine and engaged in

other poor habits. Her daughter, (Ms. Faris) was also a teen mom,

who drank, she is currently a server at a restaurant where she is

having an affair with her married boss. The youngest female, a

teenager who finds out she is pregnant in the first show, has a

fairly nice boyfriend who is kind of a hippie, who may make a

good father. But, my main fault with all of this is, don’t we want

to become better than our parents? Don’t we want the best

possible for the children? And last, but not least, doesn’t anyone

think that this is not funny subject matter? AT ALL?

I realize they think they are trying to improve their lives by going

to AA. I would never make fun of nor discredit this in any way. I

definitely spent some time in AA meetings, Alanon and Alateen

with my children. (My children’s father is a working alcoholic

and I wanted to know all about it, tried counseling and those

forums, too. I believe in alcoholism being a family disease, was

trying to prevent it!)

I also am not making fun of teen pregnancy, my daughter in law

had two children while young (19 for the first and 21 for the second)

and I love her and those kids. But, guess what? I know for sure she

is going to promote abstinency, later on, birth control and waiting

for each stage. From her experience, she wishes she had had more

time to grow up herself before having children.

The show is to me another example of disengaged parenting.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the couple in Bob Evans and the distraught

and harried mother in the grocery store had some perspective

that helped them see, it is only a very short and finite period of your

life that you can parent.

Please consider this:

It is never a waste of time to invest your moments with your children

(nieces, nephews, grandchildren, neighbor’s children…)

with the best intentions.