Gifts of Gab

Getting a little close to the wire, is it? All right, then, let’s dispense with all this advice on cheap gifts and get right to the free stuff. Over at the Boston Globe, Erin McKean has a list of stealthy holiday gifts for the “verbally inclined” who may not have much to spend—am I being paranoid, or do the two tend to go together more often than not?

At any rate, I think her first has to be my favorite: Just keep your mouth shut, already.

The first and biggest gift of language is one that is always welcome, especially at this time of year, and it doesn’t require you to do anything. In fact, it requires you to do nothing, particularly if you’re a “correcting” person. As a holiday present this year, you can give the silent gift of slack.

The idea being that the world has enough guerilla grammarians running around with Sharpie markers, correcting the corner grocer’s handwritten produce signs. And the difference between lying down and laying down doesn’t make that middle-of-the-day nap next week any less sweet.

McKean does favor the gentle pronunciation correction when warranted, though, for friends with what I always think of as the readers’ affliction, wherein they may have never actually heard a particular word spoken out loud. A kind pointer now can save all sorts of future embarrassment, as she points out, “a service akin to letting someone know they have spinach in their teeth.” She advocates stowing the business jargon for the holidays, which is just good sense, and includes a tip I love: the gift of a new word, an odd or archaic definition to slip inside a holiday card for your dearest word geeks.

There are plenty that are holiday-appropriate, such the adjective ferial (“pertaining to a holiday”) and the related word feriation (“cessation of work”). Other seasonal words that are fun to break out include galliardise, meaning “merriment or excessive gaiety,” and gilravage, “a noisy frolic, especially among young people.”

Hey, I’m all for a little ferial galliardise. Bring it.


2 Comments to Gifts of Gab

  1. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    December 21, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve a penchant for excessive gaiety, myself.

  2. nbm's Gravatar nbm
    December 24, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Gilravage I have never, ever heard, even when I was myself a young (and modestly noisy) person. Wow. But I have played and danced the galliard. Indeed, a good way to bring in the new year.

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