The Hidden Grammar Lessons in Your Favorite Christmas Carols
You’ll never look at “Deck the Halls” the same way!
From “Silent Night” to “Jingle Bell Rock,” we’ve been singing the same Christmas songs for generations. In fact, come Thanksgiving, many of us start playing Christmas music on repeat. But have you ever stopped to think about the lyrics of your favorite holiday tunes? Once you dig a little deeper you might realize that today, packed with old words are phrases, many of them sound, well, weird.
Not surprisingly, vintage carols also hold a number of fascinating grammar lessons. And if there’s anything we love more than the holidays, it’s grammar. Keep scrolling for a little bit of language trivia, courtesy of four popular Christmas carols.
As Mental Floss points out, contrary to what you might assume, the “round” in “round yon virgin mother and child” has nothing to do with the soft, feminine shape of Mother Mary in “Silent Night.” In the context of the 185-year-old song, “round” simply means “around.”
“Deck the Halls”
This is a good one to impress your friends with. One of the most misunderstood carol lyrics is “troll the ancient yuletide carol” in “Deck the Halls.” It might surprise you to learn that “troll” has nothing to do with bridge-dwelling creatures or online bullies. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one 16th century meaning of “troll” is “to sing in a full, rolling voice; to chant merrily or jovially.”
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“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
The comma between “merry” and “gentlemen” is no accident. Here, the lyrics aren’t referring to merry gentlemen about to turn in for the night. In Shakespeare’s time, “rest you merry” was a way to express good wishes, a way of saying something like “peace be with you.” The song is asking God to bestow good wishes on man.
“It's the Most Wonderful Time of The Year”
This song is basically a two-minute lesson on verbs. From “jingle belling” to “mistletoeing” the people in this song are keeping busy. Even though they aren’t real words, the act of turning nouns into verbs with an -ing has been going on for a long time. And they sure are fun to say!