The Festive Season

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As the festive season approaches, here are some words, phrases and traditions from around the world, that give an instant insight into regional variations of Christmas celebrations whether it’s the singing of carols, the trimming of the tree or the cheering prospect of a white Christmas …


tewtle (Yorkshire dialect) to snow just a few flakes

cloggins (Cumberland dialect) balls of snow on the feet

sluppra (Shetland Isles dialect) half-melted snow

Then comes the decking of the ‘halls with boughs of holly’ …

trimens (Bristol dialect) Christmas decorations

hederated (1661) adorned with ivy

For some, it’s the expectation of a good old get together and the customary shopping sprees. All leading to the annual interpretation of what is inside the wrapping paper …

cowichan (British Columbia, Canada) a vividly patterned striped jumper

crawmassing (Lincolnshire dialect) going round begging gifts at Christmas

square stocking (US slang) Christmas boxes dispatched to British troops on active service overseas
For many it’s one guaranteed occasion for a happy family get-together: Though its dangers are all too common. At least there’s the feted Christmas meal …

bubbly jock (Scottish dialect) a turkey

bonx (Essex dialect) to beat up batter for pudding

engastration (1814) the act of stuffing one bird into another

Whatever you put on your table, you can be fairly sure that someone will hoover it up …

smell-feast (1519) one who haunts good tables, a greedy sponger

cosherer (1634) someone who feasts or lives upon the industry of others

slapsauce (1573) a person who enjoys eating fine food, a glutton

hodger (US current slang) a guest who eats all of the host’s food and drinks all of the host’s drinks

Perhaps the best you can hope for is reasonable table manners …

dooadge (Yorkshire dialect) to handle food in a messy way (often said of children)

mimp (1861) to play with one’s food

pingle (Suffolk dialect) to move food about on the plate for want of an appetite

yaffle (1788) to eat or drink especially noisily or greedily

supernaculum (1592) the finest wine, which is so good it is drunk to the last drop, referring to the custom of turning over a drained glass and letting the last drop of wine fall onto the thumbnail (from the Latin ‘upon the nail’)

crambazzled (Yorkshire dialect) prematurely aged through drink and a dissolute life

Before the effects of too much good cheer …

yule-hole (Scots dialect b1911) the last hole to which a man could stretch his belt at a Christmas feast

garlic (17C) a lively jig

buff-ball (1880) a party where everyone dances naked

adam and eve ball (1920s) an early dancing party to which the guests are invited until 12 o’clock only

scolion (1603) a song sung in turn by the guests at a banquet

griddle (b1851) to sing in the streets

And it can only be hoped that conviviality doesn’t translate into overindulgence …

hozzy nozzy (Rutland dialect) not quite drunk
as full as a fairy’s phone book (Australian slang late 1900s) drunk

maudlinism (Dickens: Pickwick Papers 1837) the stage of drunkenness characterised by the shedding of tears and effusive displays of affection

vice admiral of the narrow seas (slang b1811) a drunken man that pisses under the table into his companions’ shoes

admiral of the narrow seas (early 17C) a drunkard who vomits over his neighbour at table

Before the final reckoning …

barrer (c1870) to convey a drunk home on a barrow

take a sheep-bed (Wiltshire dialect) to lie down like a sheep to sleep in a grass-field, till one is sober (of a labourer who has drunk too much)

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