I’m pretty beat—we had the family over here this year, and what with two young boys and a dog (a very well-behaved dog, mind you) and gallons of Norwegian meatballs and potatoes and cabbages and beer (and a little Linie) and the opening of presents and playing of games, I’m about ready to pack it in, so I’ll just list the books I’ve received that may be of interest to LH readers:
Shamanic Worlds: Rituals and Lore of Siberia and Central Asia by Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer
The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes
Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts by David C. Engerman
Moscow, 1937 by Karl Schlögel
The Look of Russian Literature: Avant-Garde Visual Experiments, 1900-1930 by Gerald Janecek
Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Cold War Generation by Donald J. Raleigh
It’ll take me a while to work through them all, but I’m looking forward to it. The very best holiday wishes to all LH readers!


  1. And to LH and family, with renewed thanks for another year of fascinating blogging.

  2. Happy Holidays, as I gather you say Over There.
    Here’s an article that made me guffaw.

  3. Ahoy Hat, a Christmas quiz. A favourite apple at Christmas time hereabouts is the Cox’s Orange Pippin, often abbreviated to “Cox” in the singular – at least in speech – and “Cox’s” in the plural. What should the plural be? I mean, we all say “Cox’s” as the plural, but how should we spell that? I hope that the answer isn’t the dismal “fish is the plural of fish” kind of answer.
    P.S. I accept that the plural “Cox’s” might look like a case of greengrocers’ apostrophe, but it seems to me to be a logical abbreviation of, if you’ll pardon the expression, the full fig.

  4. This is now an EU question, dearie. Why don’t you ring the Académie Française?

  5. often abbreviated to “Cox” in the singular – at least in speech – and “Cox’s” in the plural.
    If it’s the plural of “Cox,” it should be “Coxes.” No apostrophe needed (or, indeed, permitted).

  6. Felicem diem natalem domini!
    Happy Holidays, as I gather you say Over There.
    I never understood the outrage some folks of the more conservative persuasion direct at ‘Happy Holidays’. Here in the Catholic* Republic of Upper Hungary, even the most devout freely alternate between “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”. As far as I understand, the latter simply refers to the fact that there are indeed at least three holidays involved: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day. Some even include New Year’s (a feast of St. Mary) and the Epiphany.
    *As evidenced by, say, a live transmission of the midgnight mass in the Vatican on state TV (with live commentary by a bishop) and comprehensive reports of the same on all commercial networks during the main evening news the next day.

  7. bulbul: Felicem diem natalem domini!
    What is the verb elided here ? An imperative “have” or first-person “wish” as in English ?

  8. Stu,
    the way I learned it, it’s ‘habe / habete’.

  9. Bulbul, I don’t think the phrase erupted from any natural ebullience over the several (Christian) holidays that coalesce at this time of year. Indeed, I’m guessing that the man in the American street would be a bit fuzzy on where to place St. Stephen’s day, much less Epiphany, even less Feast of St Mary.
    “Happy Holidays” here simply takes the hit for a general outrage at the secularization and commercialization of American Christmas, which can be pretty alarming. Then too, it’s theoretically a way to avoid potential offense in case the greetee is Jewish, or atheist, or follower of Kwanzaa, or just plain touchy. We’ve got a whole lot of Touchy in America.
    (Times change, or course. I note in G.T. Bedell’s The Religious Souvenir (Philadelphia, 1834) the following:
    “Christmas-Day, or the day which by some denominations is celebrated as the natal day of the Redeemer of the world, when ‘He was made man and dwelt among us,’ used to be characterized by certain methods of salutation – such as, ‘A happy Christmas to you,’ or, ‘I wish you a merry Christmas.’ But these methods are now out of fashion.”
    No word on Happy Holidays….)

  10. BWA,
    well then let it be my proposal to all those liable to take offense to interpret it this way.

  11. J.W. Brewer says

    I think the backlash is a subset of more generalized resentment that can turn up in various contexts at euphemism, especially officially-sanctioned/enforced euphemism. You can occasionally see low level store personnel etc. who are Required by Policy to say “Happy Holidays” calculating who can safely be wished a Merry Christmas without risk of negative consequences. Since we are so far removed from Old World customs as to not make our non-Christmas-celebrators wear yellow stars or funny hats, this is not an exact science, but e.g. some cashiers will proceed on the assumption that customers who are black are a pretty safe bet. (It has, by the way, been pointed out by a Jewish acquaintance that saying “Happy Holidays” on say, December 23, to a Jew in a year like this one when Hanukkah has already been over for a week displays cluelessness rather than multiculturalist sympathy.)

  12. Not to mention that Hanukkah is a seriously minor holiday whose modern version exists pretty much just to provide a Non-Christmas for Jewish kids. (Is it nothing but coincidence that whereas the first day of Hanukkah is the 25th of Kislev, Christmas Day is the 25th of December? The world wonders.)
    Holiday joke:

    Bending to the pleading of their children, the Jewish parents indulgently agree to put up a tree with decorations for Hanukkah, but just to make sure, they want a rabbi to say a brukha (blessing) over it. So they go to the Orthodox rabbi and ask him. “Never!”, he replies, and orders them out of his house. The Conservative rabbi just shakes his head mournfully and says, “No, really, I couldn’t.” But when they go to the Reform rabbi, she’s all smiles: “Sure! Uhhhh — what’s a brukha?”

    Non-holiday joke by Isaac Asimov:

    Once at a dinner party, I listened to an Indian (from India, not Arizona) telling funny stories about his mother. I listened with interest for he looked thoroughly Indian, and finally I could no longer resist. I asked in mock amazement, “Is your mother Jewish?”
    He looked at me quite calmly and said, “My friend, all mothers are Jewish.”

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