Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Twelfth Night (or, What You Will)

Way back in November, John McIntyre reminded us all that the "Twelve Days of Christmas" don't end with the big day, but only start there. John had a number of other Christmas crotchets, some of which I don't share -- you can use "'Tis the season" every day from Halloween to New Year's Day for all I care, as long as the apostrophe points the right way -- and some of which I do: What's with all these celebratory "poems" that don't even pretend to scan? There's good doggerel and bad doggerel, and too many writers (and editors) don't know the difference.

But never mind -- that's a year-round peeve, not a seasonal one. What I want to complain about today (as yesterday's "Cul de Sac" comic reminded me) is a journalistic cliche John somehow left off* his list: The annual calculation of the cost of those damn 12 days of gifts. Could anything be less meaningful to a consumer than the cost of a partridge, adjusted for inflation? (Well, yes -- the cost of six geese a-laying or 10 lords a-leaping.) 

This is a conceit you only need to hear played out once in a lifetime; repetition does not improve it. But this year, I was threatened with the annual partridge-in-pear-tree report three different times, on three separate radio shows, all on local NPR stations. Enough already: Put your heads together, producers, and agree to rotate this particular chestnut so it only gets one airing per season. I'd rather eat fruitcake with those green candied blobs than ever hear it again.

[*Correction: In a comment below, John McIntyre points out that he did address the 12-days economics story in a separate seasonal caution, and as usual, he handily out-ranted me. Sorry I missed it -- I'm surprised anyone dared even propose the story after that.]


Anonymous said...

Well, strictly speaking, an apostrophe can point only one way (as a “9”). Flip it the other way and it’s no longer an apostrophe.

In any case, the typography nerd in me agrees with you: word-initial apostrophes are lovely things – as long as they’re apostrophes.

Jedword said...

I'm enjoying your blog. It fits well with mine. I share with you a frustration about the "Twelve Days Economic Analysis." And...it's still Christmas. Season ends on Epiphany, so down with the tree today.

www.jedword.com The Penultimate Word

John McIntyre said...

Actually, I did get around to the "Twelve Days" in 'RED ALERT! RED ALERT':