Laborious Puns #22

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Laborious Puns #22

“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Labor Day is a good time to stop and reflect on the august events the the preceding month.

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Bringing a baby into the world is labor of love.

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He labored so hard that he worked his fingers to the bonus.

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In some places there is a lot of Manuel labor for every Juan.

In some countries there is a lot of Manuel labor.

 

They used to experiment on dogs called laboratory retrievers.

A woman union leader who was pregnant had labor pains and then a striking baby.

 

At a company where they dig for gold a labor dispute is a miner problem where no one wants to get the shaft.


Laborious Puns

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#22

April Fools’ Day – WIF WABAC Almanac

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April Fools’ Day

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(sometimes called April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as “April fools”. Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in India, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States.Related image

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392). Some writers suggest that the restoration of 1 January as New Year’s Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

Origins

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote,Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

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In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day“, the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Reception

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial. The mixed opinions of critics are epitomised in the reception to the 1957 BBC “Spaghetti-tree hoax“, in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was “a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public”.

The positive view is that April Fools’ can be good for one’s health because it encourages “jokes, hoaxes…pranks, [and] belly laughs”, and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart. There are many “best of” April Fools’ Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated. Various April Fools’ campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.

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The negative view describes April Fools’ hoaxes as “creepy and manipulative”, “rude” and “a little bit nasty”, as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion, misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.


 

April Fools’ Day

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

WIF WABAC Almanac

Bad-Sad Christmas Songs – WIF Holidays

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Least Essential Christmas Songs

 Christmas music is like pornography—there’s good stuff out there, but you’ve got to search through a lot of crud and some weird German things to find it. Musical taste is subjective so we’re not here to tell you what you should like, but we can share 10 songs that pretty much any sane human will agree doesn’t deserve a place on your Christmas playlist.

10. New Kids on the Block – “Funky, Funky Xmas”         

This live performance of “Funky, Funky Xmas” so perfectly encapsulates the worst parts of the ‘80s that historians from the future will use it to argue that we were a backwards and simple people. It features the New Kids dressed like Vanilla Ice, prancing around like they’re at a gay bar’s line dancing night and rapping about how they left their fireplace burning and it singed Santa’s ass. That’s not a Christmas carol, that’s admitting to criminal negligence.

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And we expected better from such upstanding young men.

They tell Santa to “kick the ballistics,” but we have no idea what that means and we even asked three black people. They also ask, “How could you be booing [Christmas] with Donnie D doing it?” because apparently Christmas was once a holiday that people hated until Donnie D arrived to make it funky. Thank you, Donnie D. You’re the real Christmas miracle.

9. Lou Monte – “Dominick the Donkey”

 For every classic Christmas carol that’s been popular for several generations there’s a tacky novelty song that rightfully faded into obscurity shortly after its release. “Dominick the Donkey” is one of those songs. Recorded in 1960, it tells the story of a Christmas donkey that delivers presents to the children of Italy, because apparently you’re allowed to just make up national icons if you do it in song. It’s the stupidest thing we’ve heard since we were told about B.B. the Bastille Day Snail. Wikipedia claims “Dominick the Donkey” was funded by one of New York’s major crime families, which we believe because releasing this tripe on an unsuspecting public should be considered a criminal act.

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“Hi, kids! I’m Dominick the Christmas Donkey! I’m legally considered mentally handicapped!”

“Dominick” has seen a revival in recent years, because someone decided to unearth old Christmas songs without stopping to wonder why they were buried in the first place. In 2011 a British radio show started a campaign to make it a number one hit, because Britain is still ticked off at Italy about the war. It managed to reach number three on the UK sales chart, which is something to remember whenever Britain makes fun of America for Lady Gaga.

8. Lady Gaga – “Christmas Tree”

We didn’t bring up Lady Gaga as a random example. She wrote a holiday song that invites listeners to bask in the sexy majesty of her Christmas tree, which, depending on how you interpret the lyrics, may be a metaphor for her secret penis.

There are double entendres, and then there are single entendres, and then there’s Lady Gaga communicating with all the subtly of a horny rhinoceros that hasn’t gotten laid in years. We’ve watched pornography that’s less aggressively sexual than “Christmas Tree.”

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And we’ve seen Christmas trees that are sexier than Lady Gaga.

It starts with Lady Gaga singing “light me up, put me on top, let’s falalalalalalalala” and if you don’t know what she’s censoring you should go back to watching Sesame Street. She then says she’ll take off her clothes underneath the mistletoe, which is supposed to be erotic but just comes across like she doesn’t know what mistletoe is for.

The most baffling part of the song is when she repeatedly says that her “Christmas tree is delicious.” There’s only one part of the anatomy that even vaguely resembles a Christmas tree, and most women don’t have one. Admittedly, we’re assuming that someone put a thought into these lyrics beyond “What if Lady Gaga had sex with Christmas? She’d immaculately conceive money babies! House made of cocaine, here I come!”

7. Jingle Cats – “White Christmas”

The Jingle Cats are what happens when a crazy cat lady takes charge of a record company through a series of wacky misunderstandings. This “song” replaces the words of “White Christmas” with the meows of cats, because nothing enhances timeless classics like shrill caterwauling. It sounds like a musician is playing a cat organ while the rest of the band is playing traditional instruments, and they all hate each other.

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“You think I look cute, huh? I’m going to throw up in your bed. While you’re sleeping in it.

The low-budget music video looks like the stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey if you dropped catnip before watching it. It’s only two and a half minutes long but by the time it’s over you’ll have aged a decade. And this is just one song from an entire novelty album. If you thinking of committing suicide this Christmas, listen to the 10 hour remix of the Jingle Cats’ “Silent Night” to put you in the mood.

6. Hanson – “Everybody Knows the Claus”

After New Kids on the Block were put out to stud or whatever it is they do with aging boy bands, it was decreed by the music industry that Hanson would be the next big thing. They followed up their smash hit MMMBop with 1997’s Snowed In, a Christmas album featuring holiday staples mixed with original songs because despite the name of the album they were unfortunately able to reach the studio.

“Everybody Knows the Claus” starts with a warning that if you take Santa’s cookies he will mess you the hell up, which suggests that the Hanson brothers are the only ones on the planet who don’t know the Claus. He’s known for his generosity and good nature, not his violent reaction towards unauthorized cookie consumption.

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And if they’re snowed in, why are they outside?

We then learn that Santa wasn’t fat all along, but then he started cooking one day, and now you better not try and take that turkey away. That’s right, Hanson, tell us he’s an angry man not to be trifled with and then joke about his obesity. Ignoring your own warnings always ends well.

Lines like “you’ve never seen this side of him before” and “don’t mess with the boss” would be awfully dark if it wasn’t for the generic pop-rock beat. If Alanis Morsette covered this song it would sound like Mrs. Claus filing out a domestic abuse report. Then again, I’m not sure how seriously we should take Hanson after they use the phrase “riding down the air highway.” It’s called “flying,” Dances To Crappy Songs. You don’t need to use mystical phrasing to describe something humanity mastered a century ago.

5. Cyndi Lauper – “Christmas Conga”

Cyndi Lauper has done a lot of great things. Singing “Bonga, bonga, bonga, do the Christmas conga” is not one of them. “Christmas Conga” sounds like Lauper just discovered conga music and hadn’t yet discovered an understanding of inappropriate cultural appropriation. We’re pretty sure one of the reasons Lauper works so hard to promote LGBT rights is to make up for being the worst thing to happen to US-Latin American relations since the States helped overthrow their democracies.

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Santa isn’t waving, he’s signaling for help.

Lauper wishes us “joy that never ends” while she’s torturing us with a song that feels like it will never stop. There are professional torturers in black site prisons that can’t use irony that cruelly. Both the song and the album cover tells us to “have a nice life,” which in this context sounds like a threat. Live a nice life, everyone, unless you want to find yourself tied up with a bag over your head in an Eastern Europe warehouse while the CIA blasts Lauper’s shrill invitation to hold onto her hips loud enough to rattle your skull. “Tell us where you’ve planted the bomb, or we’re doing the Christmas conga again!” an agent yells, and then you confess to everything.

4. NewSong – “The Christmas Shoes”

“The Christmas Shoes” is auditory poverty porn. From the opening notes you know that you’re going to be drowned in so much sap people will mistake you for a tree. Then the lyrics kick in and you’ll wish that you actually were a tree, because trees don’t have ears.

The singer’s breathless voice makes him sound like an annoyingly soulful wimp, the kind that tells you he gave everyone in his family a charitable donation in their name for Christmas, but it’s totally cool that you got your loved ones toys instead. This is in sharp contrast to how the narrator is portrayed in the music video, which is as a sex offender lurking over his unsuspecting victim.

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The song is about an impoverished little ragamuffin who wants to buy his sick mom a pair of shoes, because if there’s one thing the terminally ill really need it’s sweet new kicks. The kid comes up short on scratch, but our heroic narrator makes up the difference.

Switching to “Gospel Chad Krouger” voice, our singer says that God sent him the boy to remind him of the true meaning of Christmas. Then the children’s choir kicks in, which God sent to punish us for all the sins we’ve committed this year. It’s implied that the woman dies, which means God killed a woman just to teach our singer a listen. Damn, that’s some Old Testament stuff right there.

“Christmas Shoes” was apparently based on a chain email, which is pretty much the worst form of artistic inspiration imaginable short of kidnapping hobos and forcing them to fight to the death to entertain your cruel muse. If we’ve resorted to writing music inspired by emails that escape our spam filters it’s only a matter of time before we’re listening to holiday classics like “Barrack the Communist Red Nosed Cryptoislamifascist” and “Stp Letting Downn the Ladies & Get A Bigger M@nh00d Today for Chr!stmas!!!!11”

3. Crazy Frog – “Jingle Bells”

You may remember Crazy Frog as the anthropomorphic nightmare that punished you for staying up too late to watch TV by starring in annoying commercials for ringtones. Crazy Frog also had a musical career, and the fact that his original name was The Annoying Thing should tell you all you need to know about how that went.

After what sounds like a drunken Mr. Bean yodeling “It’s Christmas” we get a rendition ofJingle Bells that was recorded when a synthesizer mated with a bell choir. Most of the words are replaced with grating sound effects, although to be fair that’s just keeping with the spirit of electronic music.

“Jingle Bells” was released as a single, and the B-side was “U Can’t Touch This.” This was in 2005. You’d becrazy-frog-christmas less out of date if your calendar for next year was dated 2014 B.C. And yes, it’s not just your filthy imagination—Crazy Frog has a clearly visible penis for most of the video. Festive frog fetishists rejoiced at the crossover between Christmas carols and frog porn they had been waiting on for so long.

Merry Christmas! God bless us, every one!

2. The Echoing Green – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas” is at best a ham-handed attempt at sending a good message and at worst a condescending mess that portrays the entire continent of Africa as impoverished and populated by idiots who can’t read a calendar. Half the continent is Christian, we’re pretty sure they know it’s Christmas.

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The real tragedy is that photo editing job.

But at least the original song sounds like a Christmas carol, albeit a modern, poppy one. Synthpop wimps The Echoing Green decided to turn “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” into an electronic song more fit for playing in clubs with bad DJs than around Christmas trees. Because nothing gets people in the mood to shake their ass like lyrics about drought and poverty. Why not drop some ecstasy while you’re at it and make out with someone in the bathroom to the sexy vibes of cultural ignorance? We can’t wait until someone releases a dubstep version. “Don’t let aid to Africa drop like this sick beat, bros!” the DJ will shout, and someone in Sudan will shudder without knowing why.

 1. The Robertsons – “Hairy Christmas”

There’s a Duck Dynasty Christmas album, because of course there is. It’s called Duck the Halls,because of course it is. It’s absolutely terrible, because of course it is.

So either a family that stars in a reality TV show as the embodiment of every lazy redneck stereotype you can imagine coincidentally has preternatural musical talents, or a marketing executive was walking down one of Walmart’s official Duck Dynasty aisles while Christmas music played and suddenly had dollar signs pop into his head, and which story you believe will determine whether you’re intelligent enough to have understood this sentence.

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Duck the Halls is a mix of awful takes on classics and awfuler originals. One of the ladies in the family does have a voice that’s either legitimately good or good enough for technology to make up the difference, but her primary contribution is on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and songs about date rape are disqualified from being considered Christmas classics.

The worst offender is arguably “Hairy Christmas,” so named because the men all have long beards and making a reference to that is what passes for intelligent on this album. It’s a honkytonk nightmare that references camouflage, hunting and shopping at Walmart, because nothing says the spirit of Christmas and simple, wholesome country living like namedropping the mega-corporation that’s the number one supplier of your massive product line. That’s like hearing the story of the Three Wise Men and coming away with the message that frankincense is the only scent officially endorsed by Jesus. If anyone buys this album, ducks should be allowed to hunt them.


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Nightmarish Christmas Characters – WIF Around the World

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Nightmarish

Holiday Characters

from Around the World

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With the holiday season around the corner, we thought we would share our favorite holiday characters … with a twist. For centuries, adults have been attempting to shape the behavior of children. Some methods have been proved to be harsher than others, and have been abandoned in modern times. Other methods have simply been altered or changed to put an acceptable face on a medieval nightmare. The characters that we have chosen to share with you aren’t Santa Claus, Rudolph or Jack Frost. Here are 10 terrifying bits of holiday folklore to keep your kids in line…

10. The Whipfather, Assistant to Saint Nick

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Country of Origin: France

Courtesy of the French, we have the legend of “The Whipfather,” Santa’s Child-Murdering Assistant. Folklore tells us the Whipfather was a desperate, broke innkeeper. One day, he met three young boys from wealthy families. The Whipfather then decided to slits their throats and chop the boys to bits, throwing the pieces into a barrel of brine (salt water). Hoping to further his profit on a slaughtered pig already stewing in the brine, the Whipfather was stopped by – you guessed it – ol’ Saint Nick. Santa is aware that the Whipfather has been overtaken by avarice and murdered the three young boys.

Of course, Santa being Santa, he restores the boys’ lives and binds the Whipfather to an eternity of servitude. The Whipfather is usually dressed in dark clothing and wears a length of rope or chain with unkempt hair and a long beard and a sinister scowl. Despite his fading relevance, children are still warned against getting on his bad side or else find themselves visited by the Whipfather, who leave coal or painful red marks on a child’s bottom. Like all children’s tales the French certainly had a message they wanted to impart to children: don’t succumb to greed.

9. Teke-Teke

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Country of Origin: Japan

Not exactly a Christmas tale, but a foreboding folktale to scare children nonetheless. Suicide is highly prevalent in Japanese culture, coming from its historical function asan honorable death as opposed to failure or inevitable death on the battlefield. The theme has also extended to its urban legends. According to legend, Teke-Teke was a woman or young school girl, who either jumped or fell in the path of an oncoming subway train and was severed in half. Her horrible death gave rise to the myth of “Teke-Teke,” a woman filled with so much anger and pain that she roams throughout Japan in the form of a torso, dragging herself along with her claw-like hands. The origin of the name comes from the sound she makes while moving: “teke-teke-teke,” as she scrapes the ground and uses her elbows to chase after her victims.

When parents tell their children of Teke-Teke, it always begins with a young man or woman staying out past curfew. They see a beautiful young school girl standing by a windowsill; smiles are exchanged. Suddenly, the girl she jumps out of the window and reveals she is nothing but a torso. The young man or girl tries to get away, but it’s too late… Teke-Teke has produced a scythe, and has cut the child in half. Seems like a bit of an overreaction for staying out past dusk, but that’s just us.

8. Split Mouth Woman (Kuchisake-Onna)

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Country of origin: Japan

A perfect character for our readers who would like to go with a little something extra for Halloween is the Split Mouth Woman. Another tale that warns children of traveling the streets at night while unaccompanied has even scarier repercussions. The legend of Kuchisake-Onna deems that a child walking alone may happen upon a tall, female figure in a trench-coat. She will have long, black hair with a surgical mask covering the bottom half of her face. A self-conscious woman, Kuchisake-Onna will ask the child if they think she is beautiful. Unfortunately for Japanese children there is no right answer.

If you reply “No,” a quick and grotesque death awaits you, as she will produce a pair of large scissors and remove your head. An answer of “yes” will lead to Kuschisake-Onna removing her mask and revealing her grotesque and mutilated face. Her smile sliced from ear to ear – she will ask again, “Am I beautiful?” For some reason, if you still answer in the affirmative, she will chase you down and slice you in half anyway. Same goes for if you reply, “no.” It seems the only escape is to be ambivalent and in her confusion, run away to safety.

7. Krampus

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Country of Origin: Austria

Getting back into the Christmas spirit, we must introduce Krampus, probably one of the more well-known figures on our list. Krampus’s exact origin is unknown, but he is said to have come from pagan traditions. His physical characteristics would bear this out. Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as “half-goat, half-demon” who punishes children who misbehave. Krampus is also hairy and has cloven hooves. His appearance is similar to the devil with his dark fangs, to boot.

The creation of Krampus might have been analogous to the advent of Christianity, with scholars arguing that his possession of chains, symbolizes the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church.

A direct foil to Santa Claus, Krampus is the stick to Santa’s carrot in shaping children’s behavior. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria, with men dressed in costumes walking the streets, looking to dole out punishment. Injuries have led to each Krampus being given an identification number to document any overly violent behavior. The Krampus tradition is spreading with more cities in Europe having parades to celebrate the half-goat, half-demon.

It is astonishing that the parades, which took place for generations in the Tyrol Region, have even managed to travel to the United States, with parties and parades taking place in Los Angeles. Goes to show you that good news travels fast.

6. Jólakötturinn

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Country of Origin: Iceland

One of the most unique characters of folklore on our list is the Icelandic Yule Cat, or the Christmas Cat. Made to strike fear in the hearts of children and workers alike – legend has it that the Icelandic cat will eat all children and workers who did not finish their work on time. However, children who do finish their tasks will be rewarded with new clothes. Some parents even took it a step further, saying that Jólakötturinn would target lazy children. If children worked hard they would have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas. The lazy children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat.

Researchers believe the origins of the Yule Cat can be traced back to medieval times when land owners would pressure farmers to finish processing their wool before Christmas. The ones who finished their work would be rewarded with new clothing, while the others would be devoured by a monstrous cat. While we don’t necessarily have a monstrous cat threatening us to be efficient producers, unemployment and loss of healthcare has done the trick.

5. Belsnickel

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Country of Origin: Germany

Our first character from Germany, Belsnickel’s name is derivative of Saint Nicholas.Belzen is German for ‘to wallop’ or ‘to drub,’ while Nickel is a pet name for Nicholas. As his name would suggest, Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. He wears tattered old clothing and raggedy fur, and in some traditions, also has a mask. The tradition of Belsnickel made its way to the United States in the 19th century when German immigrants immigrated to the Pennsylvania area (you may recall Dwight Schrute dressing as Belsnickel in one episode of The Office).

In that small American community the traditional Belsnickel lived in, he showed up at houses 1-2 weeks before Christmas, scaring the children because he somehow knew exactly which of them misbehaved. Belsnickel would rap on the door or window with his switch and often the children would have to answer a question for him or sing some type of song. Well-behaved children, or those who would answer the question or sing a song, would be given candies. The other children were not so lucky: if they moved too quickly for the treats, they would get struck with Belsnickel’s switch. In modern times, the switch has been adapted to only be used as a noise generated device, and the legend of Belsnickel lives on.

4. Hans Trapp

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Country of Origin: France

The legend of Hans Trapp comes from Alsace and Lorraine. The antithesis of Santa Claus, Hans Trapp delivers beatings to naughty children while Santa, on his worst day, delivers coal. According to legend, Trapp was, in fact, a real man who was profoundly evil. Rich, greedy, and a worshipper of Satan, Trapp was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Trapp was forced into exile and he fled into the forest. In his isolation, Trapp was driven mad and developed an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

He eventually began to prey upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. In one particularly ghastly case, he was about to begin feasting on a young boy he’d just slaughtered when suddenly, God struck him down with a lightning bolt, killing him. The frightening figure is still a part of French tradition, where he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.

3. The Jólasveinar

jolasveinar

Country of Origin: Iceland

Another example of traditions being merged or shaped as time passes is the changed identity of the Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads. In their inception, they were 13 Icelandic trolls, who each had their own name and personality. The trolls’ activities ranged greatly, from leaving gifts to rotting potatoes, with some even described as homicidal murders who ate children. Generally, they were known as pranksters that stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime. The Yule Lads were used to scare children into behaving, just like the Yule Cat.

As time passed and cultures became intertwined, the benign Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus) rubbed off on the Icelandic traditions. Finally, in the 20th century, the formerly devilish Jólasveinar changed its ways and began leaving gifts more frequently. It eventually shed its medieval appearance and is now characterized in the simple costume worn by traditional Santa Claus.

2. Frau Perchta

perchta

Country of Origin: Germany or Austria

During medieval times, fear of a witch could be a very effective way to instill fear into a group of people. And Frau Perchta was a particularly frightening witch. According to German and Austrian tales, Perchta was generous in her rewards to the faithful and kind, but ruthless with the wicked. Very much a Christmas tradition, Perchta would visit homes during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). Children and even adults feared her gruesome punishment of the sinful, “rip(ing) out internal organs and replac(ing) them with garbage.”

Described as a tall, powerfully built woman, Perchata is thought to have been a goddess during Pagan times but transformed to a slovenly witch during the advent of Christianity. As German society progressed, Perchta began to be used more and more to punish and scare peasant women who became involved in the growing textile industry. During that period, “lazy” girls and women would be visited by Perchta … so they best finish their garments!

1. Cuco

cuco

Country of Origin: Portugal

“Sleep little child, sleep now, or the Cuco will come and eat you.” It’s hard to imagine that a child would not have nightmares after that lullaby. The myth of the Cuco originated in Portugal and Galicia with etymology deriving from the Galician and Portuguese côco: a ghost with a pumpkin head. The Cuco is a child eater and a kidnapper; in some instances, it will simply devour the child, leaving no trace, or it may steal the child away to a place of no return. The caveat of course being that it only bestows this punishment on disobedient children.

 Similar to Santa Claus, the Cuco uses the roof… only for more nefarious activities. It is on the lookout for a child’s misbehavior and can morph into the shape of any dark shadow so it can stay watching. The Cuco is supposed to represent the opposite of the guardian angel and is frequently compared to the devil.

Nightmarish Christmas Characters –

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WIF Around the World

World Wide Words Issue 931 – WIF Style

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World Wide Words

Issue 931

letter-to-editor

Not my pigeon

Q From Helen Mosback: I have just read a serialised version of John Rowland’s Calamity in Kent. It includes this: “In fact, it’s your pigeon, as they say in the civil service.” I was wondering if you could shed any light on the expression it’s your pigeon? I have to admit to being quite taken by the Polish expression not my circus, not my monkeys to indicate that something is not one’s problem, and would be very happy should I have found an equally enchanting English expression!pigeon_png_clipart-671

A Readers may not be familiar with John Rowland, a little-known and neglected British detective-story writer who published Calamity in Kent in 1950. The British Library has republished it this year in its Crime Classics series.

The date of his book is significant, since at that time the expression was more familiar to people in the countries of what is now the Commonwealth than it is now. It had come into the language around the end of the nineteenth century.

The idiom suggests something is the speaker’s interest, concern, area of expertise or responsibility. This is a recent British example:

If posh people aren’t your pigeon, the correspondence on display in this book will be a massive bore and irritation.
The Times, 8 Oct. 2016.

It also turns up in the negative in phrases such as “that’s not my pigeon”, denying involvement or responsibility in some matter.

Despite your analogy with the Polish expression, the pigeon here isn’t the animal. It’s a variant form of pidgin. The name is said to derive from a Chinese attempt to say the word business; the original pidgin, Pidgin English, was a trade jargon that arose from the seventeenth century onwards between British and Chinese merchants in ports such as Canton. The word pidgin is recorded from the 1840s and has become the usual linguistic term for any simplified contact language that allows groups that don’t have a language in common to communicate.

This is an early example of pidgin being used in the figurative sense:

We agreed that if anything went wrong with the pony after, it was not to be my “pidgin.”
The North-China Herald (Shanghai), 1 Aug. 1890.

Most early examples in English writing were spelled that way, though by the 1920s the pigeon form was being used by people who didn’t make the connection with the trade language.

Subnivean

Classical scholars will spot the wintry associations of this word; it derives from Latin nix for snow, which becomes niv- in compounds such as nivālis, snowy or snow-covered. Etymologists point out that the English snow and the Latin nix both ultimately derive from the same ancient Indo-European root. But then humans in Europe have long had plenty of experience of the white stuff.

About four centuries ago, English scholars borrowed nivālis to make the adjective nival to add to our snowy (though French got there first, at least a century earlier). We also have the more recent technical term nivation, not — as you might guess — meaning snowfall but the erosion of ground around and beneath a snow bank that is seasonally melting.

Subnivean is another member of the group, nearly two centuries old. This refers to something that happens underneath snow such as the activities of animals that survive winter beneath it.

Very recently that word has been joined by the linked noun subnivium for the area between soil surface and snowpack. It was coined by a group led by Jonathan Pauli of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They wrote in a paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment in June 2013: “For many terrestrial organisms in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is a period of resource scarcity and energy deficits, survivable only because a seasonal refugium — the ‘subnivium’ — exists beneath the snow.”

Black as Newgate knocker

Q From Jim Mitchell: As a child in South London, when I came in from playing and was a bit grubby my mother would say I looked as black as nookers nocker. My mother was born in 1917. I wonder if she might have heard this expression from her mother?

A It’s very probable. But not perhaps in that form. Your mother’s version is a mishearing of a Londoners’ expression that dates back in written records to 1881: black as Newgate knocker. It has also turned up in the forms black as Newker’s knocker, black as Nook’s knocker and black as Nugent’s knocker.

Curiously, though it has been in existence for more than a century and is currently not widely known, in writing it is now more often found than it has ever been, perhaps because it’s such an evocative item of historical Cockney slang. These days it almost always has an added apostrophe-s:

Her eyes really are black as Newgate’s knocker.
Sunday Times, 19 Jun. 1994.

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Newgate Exercise yard, 1872 by Gustave Doré

Newgate here refers to the notorious prison, originally created in medieval times in one of the turrets of Newgate, a main entrance through the walls into the City of London. Down the centuries the prison was rebuilt five times; it closed in 1902 and was demolished in 1904. The Central Criminal Court, better known as the Old Bailey, now stands on the site.

Newgate was a place of fear and loathing to many Londoners, not only criminals but also debtors, who were imprisoned there until they found a way to repay what they owed. After 1783, it was also the place where executions took place, initially on a public platform in front of the building, later inside. For most of its existence it was a noisome, dank, dark and unhealthy place to be incarcerated.

It’s not surprising that it should have been commemorated in expressions. But why not just black as Newgate? Why should its door knocker be selected as the source of the simile?

The phrase Newgate knocker itself is older. It was applied to a hairstyle fashionable among lower-class male Londoners such as costermongers. Though it became widely known from the 1840s, I’ve found a reference to it in the Kentish Gazette in 1781. It referred to a lock of hair twisted from the temple on each side of the head back towards the ear in the shape of a figure 6.

In 1851, Henry Mayhew wrote in his London Labour and the London Poor that a lad of about fourteen had told him that to be “flash” (stylish) hair “ought to be long in front, and done in ‘figure-six’ curls, or twisted back to the ear ‘Newgate knocker style’.” Eight years later, John Camden Hotten explained in his Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words that “The shape is supposed to resemble the knocker on the prisoners’ door at Newgate — a resemblance that carries a rather unpleasant suggestion to the wearer.” Another description came a couple of years later from another investigative social journalist, James Greenwood:

knockerAll, or nearly all, [were] bull-necked, heavy-jawed, and with the hair dressed after a fashion known among its patrons as the “Newgate knocker” style — that is, parted in masses on each side of the head and turned under unnaturally.
Illustrated Times (London), 16 Feb. 1861.

There’s no obvious connection with the colour black. We may guess, however, that Londoners would have imagined the prison’s knocker to be large and made of black iron as well as figuratively black because of its evil associations. We may also guess from the dates at which the two expressions were first current that Londoners took over the hairstyle phrase as a new way to describe the colour, as people have done for centuries with similes such as black as your hat, black as death, black as the ace of spades, black as thunder, and black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat.

As a postscript, I also found this, in a story from 60-odd years ago about the search by a journalist named Bernard O’Donnell for the original Newgate knocker:

His spasmodic search came to an end recently when he was in the office of the Keeper of the Old Bailey, Mr A W Burt. “Where is Newgate’s knocker?” he asked Mr Burt. Promptly it was shown to him. It was on the keeper’s desk. After years spent as a symbol which came to inspire dread among the poor of London, it had found a more useful rôle. It now makes an ideal paper weight.
The Scotsman, 24 April 1950.

Make of that what you will. I wonder if it still exists?

In the news

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Oxford Dictionaries announced its Word of the Year 2016 on 16 November: post-truth. Its editors defined this as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” One example came in a report in The Times on 31 October of comments by the president of the European Council on the signing of a trade deal with Canada:

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“Mr Tusk also denounced the ‘post-truth politics … on both sides of the Atlantic’ which nearly scuppered the deal because ‘facts and figures won’t stand up for themselves’ against an emotional opposition campaign.” Though it has been very much a word of this year, connected both with the Brexit referendum in the UK and the US presidential election, Oxford Dictionaries noted that “post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine.”

Last time I mentioned the Danish word hygge, a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. This has become widely popular in Britain this year, and was one of Oxford Dictionaries’ runners-up as Word of the Year. For the background and the story of its rise in British English, I can’t do better than point you to an article by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian on 22 November.Image result for post-truth

The newest British buzzword is jam. Not as in the “jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today” meaning of the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass — though the quip has been made several times by pundits — but as an acronym for “Just About Managing”. This refers to the estimated six million working-age British households on low to middle incomes who are struggling to stave off poverty from day to day. The term derives from a speech given by the new prime minister, Theresa May, just after she was chosen by MPs in July. She said of the members of this group, “You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.” Her words became a catchphrase among commentators which has now been shortened.

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Lots of letters

Lots of letters

Boxing Day

Q From Burt Rubin; a related question came from Keith Denham: As an American, I’ve always wondered about the origin of the term Boxing Day.

A Boxing Day is a public holiday in Britain and most Commonwealth countries. There’s some minor confusion these days, in Britain at least, over which day it actually is. The reference books a century ago were adamant that it was the first working day after Christmas Day. However, the name is now frequently attached specifically to 26 December, even if it falls at the weekend, which makes it equivalent to the Christian saint’s day of St Stephen.

Image result for boxing dayWe have to go back to the early seventeenth century to find the basis for the name. The term Christmas box appeared about then for an earthenware box, something like a piggy bank, which apprentices and other workers took around immediately after Christmas to collect money. When the round was complete, the box was broken and the money distributed among the company. The first known example:

Tirelire, a Christmas box; a box having a cleft on the lid, or in the side, for money to enter it; used in Related imageFrance by begging Fryers, and here by Butlers, and Prentices, etc.
A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, by Randle Cotgrave, 1611.

By the eighteenth century, Christmas box had become a figurative term for any seasonal gratuity. By the nineteenth century their collection seems to have become a scourge in our big cities. When James Murray compiled an entry for Christmas box in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1889, his splendidly acerbic description suggests that the practice had become a personal bugbear:

A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.

Though the term Boxing Day for the day on which such Christmas boxes were requested didn’t become widespread until early in the nineteenth century, a few examples are recorded from the previous century. The earliest I know of is this:

Related imageTuesday in Christmas Week, about Eight in the Evening, I was coming over this broad Place, and saw a Man come up to this lame Man, and knock him down — It was the Day after Boxing Day.
Transcript of a trial at the Old Bailey (London), 14 Jan. 1743.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the term seems to have become as closely associated with importuning individuals as Christmas Box itself:

“Boxing Day,” — the day consecrated to baksheesh, when nobody, it would almost seem, is too proud to beg, and when everybody who does not beg is expected to play the almoner. “Tie up the knocker — say you’re sick, you are dead,” is the best advice perhaps that could be given in such cases to any man who has a street-door and a knocker upon it.
Curiosities of London Life, by Charles Manby Smith, 1853.

The custom has died out, seasonal visitors to Britain may be assured, though small gifts are still sometimes given to tradesmen and suppliers of services. The favourite occupation of the day is attending football matches or rushing to the post-Christmas sales.

World Wide Words is written, edited and published in the UK by Michael Quinion. ISSN 1470-1448


World Wide Words Issue 931

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– WIF Style

Pilgrim Thanksgiving – Food For the 1st Settlers

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Foods the Pilgrims

Likely Ate

at the First

Thanksgiving

Unfortunately, there is no actual menu for the first Thanksgiving in 1621. There is some debate, however, whether or not turkey was on the table. There is even one story where the original intent was to hunt for turkey, and all the Pilgrims wound up bagging was a bunch of crows instead. We would guess that those were a wise bunch of birds.

So let’s assume that turkey became a holiday symbol later on, and look at some of the other foods that may well have been served at that first Thanksgiving. Keep some napkins handy, because you are about to start drooling something fierce.

10. Eel

Serving Eel for Thanksgiving

It is well known that Squanto took pity on the Pilgrims, and helped teach them how to live off of the land and water. One of the hunting methods that Squanto taught them was to spear eels, who were curled up in muddy areas during colder weather. As a matter of fact, the feast made when the Pilgrims made peace with the leader of the Massosoit tribe was a feast of eels. The hunting of eels is also backed up by Pilgrim accounts. So yes, instead of cranberries, the first Thanksgiving would have probably featured a second helping of eel. Just like Grandma used to make.

9. Dried Fruit

dried fruit for Thanksgiving

Fruit was considered to be more of a snack by the Pilgrims. However, there was not refrigeration to store fruits. The solution, particularly when out of season or when you did not have a budget to ship them in from Spain, was to dry the fruits and eat them later. Drying could be done either outside or in shelters, to keep away flies. In addition to sun-drying fruit, there was also the option of oven-drying fruits in cooler climates. Dried fruit, such as raisins, would have been a treat or dessert to eat at the first Thanksgiving table. Also, you might have wanted to store a few in your pocket for later.

8. Lobster

stuffed-lobster thanksgiving

While lobster is more of a delicacy today, the Pilgrims would have seen the crustacean as a staple of their diet. The Patuxet Squanto was again instrumental in teaching the Pilgrims to catch and cook lobsters. The Pilgrim Edward Winslow even sent a letter back to England in 1622 detailing the feast (which is reported to have lasted up to five days) and lobster was really put over as a major dish. This letter electrified the imagination of all who read it, and started to turn the Harvest Feast into Thanksgiving. So it might be a great idea to spend a Thanksgiving rolling out that very traditional Lobster Feast. Just don’t forget to remove the rubber bands afterwards. They’re chewy.

7. Hardtack

hardtack thanksgiving

To be fair, “Hardtack” was also a name applied to these biscuits served primarily during the Civil War. They were often derided, and would frequently be infested with bugs. Hardtack existed during the Pilgrims’ era too, would often be eaten in darker places (so they didn’t have to see the bugs) and dipped into liquids. The dipping had a dual purpose. First, it would lighten the biscuits’ rock hard jaw-breaking consistency. Plus, it killed the maggots, a recommended step for any good dish, really.

Hardtack is rather easy to make, as well as plentiful. if you’re sick of warm, soft, buttery rolls at your Thanksgiving, consider these glorified stones for all your future meals. Just  keep an eye out for any wriggling maggots that somehow survived the Dipping Holocaust.

6. Samp

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When the pilgrims and the Wampanoag broke hardtack together, they would have enjoyed a helping of samp on the side. Samp, a derivative of a primarily-English porridge, is a mixture of corn and milk mixed into a rather soupy consistency. In the 1600’s book Two Voyages to New EnglandJohn Josselyn states that the Samp would be boiled by the gallon after the corn was ground into a flour and stirred in a combination of milk and water. Samp could have either been a side dish or a full meal, depending on the situation. Photo and Samp recipe.

5. Maize

corn-rainbow2

Because it grew better than English grains, Pilgrims referred to Maize as “Indian Corn.” The corn was planted in the spring, with the Wampanoag using small herring fish as fertilizer for its growth. The corn would have been dried out by November, meaning the Pilgrims would not have eaten corn-on-the-cob at Thanksgiving. The corn would have been shucked, as well as ground. This would have been primarily done to make into a meal, or to cook into bread. Either way, maize would have been a staple of Pilgrim diets at the time of the first feast.

4. Pumpkins

Pumpkin+Stuffed+with+Everything+Good+full-+Simple+Living+and+Eating+006

The classic image of Pilgrims making pumpkin pie for the first Thanksgiving is not quite accurate. The Pilgrims would likely have dug out the contents of the pumpkin, and refilled it with eggs and other items. The pumpkin would then have been cooked to a blackened outside shell. In this way, the pumpkin would have served as an edible pot, with the contents being scooped out and served. So pumpkins were likely a big part of the first Thanksgiving feast, though they were not specifically mentioned until the account of the second Thanksgiving feast.

3. Wild Fowl

THanksgiving Goose

Far moreso than turkey, it was quite likely that ducks or geese were served at the first Thanksgiving. The simple fact is that ducks and geese were more plentiful in autumn to hunt than turkeys were. There is also the great possibility that Passenger Pigeons, which have been extinct for over a century, would have been plentiful at the time. Swan may have also been on the menu.

One reason to use these birds over turkey is the issue of preparation. Smaller fowl can be spit roasted, which would make them easier to cook for a large crowd. Back then, turkey would have to be boiled prior to stuffing, which was a much bigger pain back in the day. It would have simply been easier to feed a crowd with birds other than turkey.

2. Fish

atlantic white cod for thanksgiving

Fish, specifically Atlantic White Cod, would have been a staple of most any meal done by the Pilgrims. Cod was plentiful, as well as desired for its lean white meat. The Pilgrims were quite intent on fishing, except they were terrible at it. Squanto and others taught the Pilgrims not only to fish, but also to use the rest of the fish as fertilizers for crops and oils.

Of course, cod would not be the only seafood on the menu. There would have also been quahogs (clams,) which were steamed. Bass and oysters would have been plentiful as well. In short, the bulk of the first Thanksgiving would have most likely been a seafood feast.

1. Deer (Venison)

roast venison - deer meat

While we’re doubtful about turkey being on the first Thanksgiving menu, there is no question about deer meat being on the table. According to Edward Winslow, author of the only known account of the event, the Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast. Winslow was extremely specific about the deer portion of the meal, and only vaguely referred to the bird meat as “fowl,” so you can guess which dish was his favorite that day. What can we say; some people are simply partial to red meat.

So if someone kills Bambi this Thanksgiving, they’re not heartless murderers of all thing innocent and childlike; they’re simply following a proud tradition dating back to 1621. Not to worry though; if you’re squeamish about killing your own deer, there are plenty of exotic meat markets out there willing to charge youridiculous amounts of money for the right to enjoy the ultimate hipster holiday treat.


Pilgrim Thanksgiving

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– Foods of the Settlers

Halloween Facts and Puns #32 – WIF Holidays

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Halloween Facts

– More than Candy and Goblins

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Halloween, or Hallowe’en (/ˌhæləˈwn, ˈn, ˌhɑːl/; a contraction of “All HallowsEvening“), also known as All halloweenAll Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows),martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.

According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain. Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.

Typical contemporary festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related “guising“), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing and divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although in other locations, these solemn customs are less pronounced in favor of a more commercial and secular celebration.Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although most no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

Etymology

The word Halloween or Hallowe’en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word “Halloween” means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening”. It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day). In Scots, the word “eve” is even, and this is contracted to e’en or een. Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Halloween. Although the phrase “All Hallows'” is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, all saints mass-day), “All Hallows’ Eve” is itself not seen until 1556.


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My friend wants to dress like the Queen of Hearts for Halloween. I think I’ll follow suit.

The fastest, most efficient way to make Halloween costumes is mask production.Image result for halloween masks

 

Witches are good at spell-ing.

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Where do witches bake their cookies? In a coven.

 

A trickortreat route is a fright path.Image result for halloween candy

 

Those who eat candy with both hands are ambi-dextrose.

 

There was a fight in the candy store. Two suckers got licked.

 

A group of ballerinas were wearing their tutus. A couple of extra costumes arrived but they thought they might be tutu many.Image result for skeleton key

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The tale of the haunted refrigerator was chilling.

 

 

I used my skeleton key to get into the haunted house.

 

Two brothers collaborated on haunted stories, but one was a ghost writer.

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‘We’ve lost too much to the Indian princess at that card game,’ declared Capt. John Smith, ‘but don’t let poker haunt us.’

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Halloween Facts

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– And Puns