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Xmas or Christmas

The other day Gemma asked whether people liked the abbreviation “Xmas” my natural reaction was that I didn’t, but I have no idea why – so I thought I better find out the back story of Xmas. As a child I don’t remember anyone talking about the abbreviation as good or bad but I do remember seeing it on Christmas cards. So I decided I had better find out a bit more about the history of Xmas.

According to Wikipedia the prefix “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is written as 𝛸 (that looks like a normal X). The suffix “mas” is an abbreviation for mass (a church service).

There are examples of the use of the term Xmas going back to the 16th century, historic authors including Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll used the term. While the BBC reports use in Anglo Saxon Chronicle in 1021, suggesting it would be a parchment saver… Indeed, the use of Chi as part of an abbreviation for Christ goes back to the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 300s.

So Xmas is a well established term, we can each choose whether we like it or now, but now when I see it I will remember it is steeped in history.

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MR & MRS

I love Gemma’s concrete letters. I think the “MR & MRS” combo would be great for a wedding table or as a wedding gift.

Mr and Mrs Concrete Letters combo

But I was thinking there are other combinations some couples would like. I submitted my PhD after we got married, so the “MR & MRS” combo worked. But if it was the other way round we might have needed “MR & DR”. Some of my academic colleagues might well have needed “PROF & PROF”, and other friends would have wanted “MR & MR”.

The wonderful thing about the concrete letters is you can buy the letters you need individually, and Gemma can do bespoke colours if you want (letters are already available in Grey, black and white, pink and green. Just send her a message with your specification or browse her shop for other ideas.

Or why not sign up to her mailing list, where you will receive special offers and new product updates.

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@: At Sign or Ampersat?

@ symbol, ampersat, ampersand, concrete gems

The other day I was talking to a friend about Gemma’s development of a concrete “&” and “@”. I pronounced these as “ampersand” and “at sign”. My friend said that “@” should be called “ampersat”. This was a new word to me and so when I got home I did a bit of research.

My dad had taught me about ampersand and so I knew it was not a new word. The symbol dates back to Roman times. The word ampersand (according to Wikipedia) is a mix of English and Latin and according to the Guardian

  • Until as recently as the early 1900s, “&” was considered a letter of the alphabet and was listed after Z in 27th position. To avoid confusion with the word “and”, anyone reciting the alphabet would add “per se” (“by itself”) to its name. Therefore the alphabet ended “X, Y, Z and per se &”. This final “and per se and” eventually ran together, and the “ampersand” was born.

The @ used to be used when talking about things like prices, such as 6 tickets @ £1 each, and dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 1970’s as the World Wide Web was developing it was introduced as a way of presenting email addresses username@domain. It is now in universal use. Now I remember that happening and how much easier it came to access my email box. At the time I was studying Computer Science and went on to work in the area, and I never heard anyone use the word ampersat. Wikipedia suggests that ampersat is a modern suggestion from the 1990s. So I guess i will continue to pronounce @ as “at” or “at sign”.

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Father’s Day

Earlier in the year I wrote about Mothering Sunday, so I thought that I should write about Father’s Day. My father always called it Dad’s Day, and the celebration wasn’t mentioned in church, so I assumed it was a less established celebration – perhaps conjured up by my dad! However having looked at the Internet I discovered that there are varying days dedicated to Fathers around the world, and that one of them dates back to the Middle Ages.

In the UK we celebrate Father’s Day on the 3rd Sunday in June, and actually we imported the idea from the US, where it was established in the early 20th century. When in the 1930s Australia adopted the idea of Father’s Day they chose the first Sunday in September, as this was away from other special days. While some northern countries, including Norway and Finland, chose the second Sunday in November.

First celebrated in 1919 former USSR countries celebrate Defender of the Fatherland Day, this is also known as Men’s Day, but also includes male and female members of the armed services. Russia celebrate this on 23rd February, while other countries celebrate it on varying dates.

The Catholic Church mark Saint Joseph’s Day on 19th March, and have used this day to celebrate fathers since the Middle Ages. A number of Catholic countries now celebrate Father’s Day on this date.

Concrete Dad letters for Father’s Day