Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Xmas or Christmas? Which is correct?

Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, shares a Quick and Dirty tip regarding "Christmas" Versus "Xmas." As you probably know, I am a GG fan. I have downloaded all episodes of Grammar Girl's podcast from iTunes and have them on my iPod. I listen to them whenever I'm driving. In light of the season and to honor my word usage expert mentor, it only seems appropriate that I share her insight with you!

GG writes: Many listeners have written in to ask about the origin and appropriateness of "Xmas."

Retailers have long been accused of secularizing Christmas by using "Xmas" in signs and advertisements; therefore, I suspect many of you will be surprised to learn that "Xmas" has a religious origin.

In Greek, the letter "chi" is written as an X, and chi is the first letter of the Greek word for "Christ." Greeks sometimes abbreviated "Christ" as "X." For example, they abbreviated "Christ savior" as "XP." ("P" is the symbol for the Greek letter "rho," which is the first letter of the word "savior" in Greek.) The Oxford English Dictionary shows the first known English use of "Xmas" in 1551.

As for appropriateness, "Xmas" may have a religious origin and fit better on signs, but many people -- both those who use "Xmas" and those who complain about its use -- are unaware of the religious origin. If you choose you use "Xmas," you should know that some people will be infuriated.

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