The Origin of Bah Humbug!

scroogebluray1It’s Christmas time, and that makes everyone happy… well, everyone except the Scrooges among us. And when one of those Scrooges says “Bah Humbug!” to you, don’t you wonder what they are really saying? Well, have no fear. We’ll dive in to this question together. (Yesterday’s usage of the phrase was in reference to the text adventure game by the name of Humbug. We’re talking about something a bit older here.)

Everyone knows the line. Ebenezer Scrooge made it famous. But “Bah Humbug!” existed before Dickens. According to the 1911 Classic Encyclopedia, based on the 11th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the term dates back to the mid-1700s:

According to the New English Dictionary, Ferdinando Killigrew’s The Universal Jester, which contains the word in its sub-title “a choice collection of many conceits … bonmots and humbugs,” was published in 1754, not, as is often stated, in 1735-1740. The principal passage in reference to the introduction of the word occurs in The Student, 1750-1751, ii. 41, where it is called “a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion.”

But even then, the origin is unclear. It had apparently been popular already and was synonymous with a hoax or a sham. The Encyclopedia goes on to say:

The origin appears to have been unknown at that date. Skeat connects it (Etym. Diet. 1898) with “hum,” to murmur applause, hence flatter, trick, cajole, and “bug,” bogey, spectre, the word thus meaning a false alarm. Many fanciful conjectures have been made, e.g. from Irish uim-bog, soft copper, worthless as opposed to sterling money; from “Hamburg,” as the centre from which false coins came into England during the Napoleonic wars; and from the Italian uomo bugiardo, lying man.

And so there are many possibilities on where the phrase came from, but each points back to a meaning of deception. Which makes sense in the way that Scrooge used it in A Christmas Carol, as he thought that Christmas itself was a hoax or deception. In fact, this is not the only literary use of the phrase, as the venerable Wizard of Oz declares himself to be “just a humbug.”

So now you know. Though there are many possible sources for this phrase that was “very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion”, there was only one primary meaning. And through time and many versions of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, many have forgotten that the phrase meant anything at all, simply associating it was a bad attitude about Christmas. But not you. You know the truth.

So the next time some Scrooge says “Bah Humbug!” to you, just smile and tell them that Christmas is no hoax.


100 Word Challenge | Bah Humbug!

“Sidney, what are you doing?”

“Playing Humbug. Why?”

“Bah, Humbug! What do you see in that stupid game? There aren’t even graphics!”

“It’s called a text adventure game. Some games don’t need to compensate for poor story lines with graphics. Besides, do you know the name of the main character in this game?”


“No, it’s Sidney. Sidney Widdershins.”

“You just set it to your name, big whoop.”

“No, that’s how it’s written.”

“Admittedly, they could have picked a better name.”

“Funny. I just need to figure out what it means.”

Just then, a phone rang.


“Hi. This is Graham Cluley.”


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So, there really is a text adventure game called Humbug. It was created by Graham Cluley back in 1990, and it is now available in the public domain here. For some reason I have a soft spot when it comes to text adventure games, even in the age of the uncanny valley. I love that back then, games were stories to be read. Stories that required you to be one of the characters, not unlike a good book. Anyway, enjoy!

Fatherhood, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Christmas Traditions

This year, my wife and I are making a real effort to wait until Christmas Day to open our Christmas presents. This is made easier by the fact that we are not doing presents for each other this year. Really, we are just waiting to give our daughters their gifts. Not that they know this or care, being two years old and five months old.

But anyway, my wife and I have always had trouble waiting to give each other presents. On the years that we get closest to Christmas Day, it is because one (or both) of us didn’t actually finish Christmas shopping until days (or hours) before the 25th. And so when friends of ours gave us some gifts recently and told us that we could wait to open them until Christmas if we wanted to, we waited about five minutes after they left the house to start ripping off the wrapping paper. After all, it isn’t like they told us to wait, and we aren’t doing gifts for each other this year. Stop judging us.

The gifts were all wonderful, but the one that I specifically want to mention is a book that I didn’t even know existed. J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, also wrote a bunch of letters to his children purporting to be Santa Claus. The book is titled “Letters from Father Christmas” and is full of insight into a side of Tolkien that, like the book itself, I did not know existed. Every year, Tolkien would write a letter to each of his kids, accompanied by illustrations, and tell them what was happening at the North Pole. After a few years, he started bringing elves and goblins and bears into the mix as well, which is good, because it wouldn’t feel like it was from Tolkien if they weren’t there.

Anyway, it’s given me some ideas for my family Christmas traditions (better ones than not being patient for Christmas presents, anyway). And I hope it does you too. In the comments, I would love to hear about some of your Christmas traditions!

I am married to a winner!

18242_494253743947639_1572248831_nThis past weekend, my wife and I attended her company’s Holiday party and let me tell you, Uniform Color Company goes ALL OUT for their employees.

We left the girls with Grandma for the evening (and overnight) and arrived at the decadently decorated country club around 5:45pm. We were directed where to leave our coats and my wife was handed an envelope and a raffle ticket. Inside the envelope were ten different raffle tickets, two vouchers for adult beverages, a plea for people to either drink responsibly or use the company-provided taxi service without charge or condemnation, and an explanation on how to enter for the prizes that were littered about the room.

There were fourteen prizes for which an employee might enter one or all ten of the raffle tickets from the envelope. This allowed for a bit of strategy as one could either enter ten of the fourteen drawings with one ticket per drawing, or if there was only one item that employee wanted, they could put all ten of their tickets toward that prize to increase their odds of getting drawn. We’ll get to the prizes in a moment.

There were no assigned seats for the three hundred some guests, so after perusing the prizes and snaffling some appetizers, my wife and I loitered about waiting for people with whom she worked more closely to arrive. As we were waiting, my wife’s boss, the emcee for the evening, started calling out numbers from the individual raffle tickets (not part of the ten from the envelope). The winners of these impromptu drawings were given a choice of ten cash envelopes, ranging in value from $50 to $1,000.

I’m going to ruin the suspense for you a bit here. We did not win one of the cash prizes.

Once some of my wife’s closer coworkers showed up, we snagged a table and waited for the dinner to begin. Before the meal though, we were somewhat surprised, but quite pleased, when one of the board members was asked to pray over the meal. And though the official name of the event was Holiday Party, we were wished a Merry Christmas and reminded that Christ’s birth was the true gift this season.

Dinner was served semi-buffet style with food stations located around the room. My wife and I parted ways for different lines, each grabbing a plate for the other, and we ate dinner in shifts. Our courses consisted of salad and pasta, followed by prime rib and mashed potatoes, and then we entered the dessert line together (dessert was chocolate fondue and cheesecake). Every part of dinner was delicious.

After dessert, the winners of the big prizes were announced. Here are some of the things that people were able to put their ten tickets toward:

  • 47″ LCD HD TV
  • 16 GB iPad
  • Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Accelerated Charger, and a Blanket
  • 7 Piece Patio Set with Umbrella, Base, and a Tall Outdoor Fireplace
  • Snowblower
  • 2 Lions vs. Vikings tickets
  • 10 Griffins Hockey tickets with Griffins jersey and $25 Visa gift card
  • 2 ticket to Les Mis in February and a $150 gift card to Webster’s Prime
  • Cleaning Package with 2 people to clean your house for 2 hours and a pressure washer
  • Kitchen Package with new pots & pans, a knife set, and mixing bowls
  • $200 gift card to The Melting Pot with a $50 IMAX gift card
  • Wine cooler, wine glasses, corkscrew, and 2 bottles of wine
  • 2 Two-day Go Chicago passes (they let you into 25 Chicago attractions for free and first in line)
  • Keurig Special Edition Coffee Maker, Assorted Coffee, Keurig Coffee Stand, 2 mugs

When we put our tickets in, my wife and I decided to put nine out of ten of them toward the Les Mis tickets and one toward the iPad. Our strategy centered around the fact that the Les Mis showing happens one day after my wife’s birthday, and a fancy dinner and a show would be a nice way to celebrate.

As we ate with her coworkers, discussion came up about the prizes, which ones people had entered for, how nice they would be to win, etc. Then after dessert, the drawings began. We had to wait until nearly the end for the winners of the Les Mis package. And then it happened.

“696073,” announced the emcee. “That’s 696073.”

My wife stood up. We had won.

Afterward, the boss of my wife’s boss stopped by our table.

“Congratulations guys,” he said. “You got the best prize up there.”

“I know,” said my wife.

And we did.


Innermost Secrets 23 – 27

DSC00863And so we wend our way down the back alley of my past, baseball bat at the ready should something jump out from one of the darker shadows. If you are just joining us, you may want to start at the beginning (Innermost Secrets 1-8, 9-15, 16-21, & 22).

23rd Innermost Secret:

  • I don’t know how to read (or write).

Or blog.

24th Innermost Secret:

  • Sometimes I feel hungry. Otherwise, I’ve no feelings at all.

This is true of all men, not just me. Next time you see a man emoting, congratulate him on his acting ability. Either that, or call him some medical attention. Or both.

DSC0095425th Innermost Secret:

  • Every girl in camp is on my Top 5.

I don’t remember who started the Top 5 thing, but it went like this: Male staff would rate the female staff and come up with the five they would most like to be with romantically. The girls rated the male staff in the same way. It was mostly a good-natured thing where everyone wanted to be on everyone else’s Top 5 list. Of course, anytime you aren’t on someone’s list, it hurts. In truth, I wasn’t really ready to be a good boyfriend while I was at camp anyway, so I should have avoided the game altogether. I’m at least glad that I was all-inclusive.

DSC0095526th Innermost Secret:

  • I wear a toupee.

Technically, it is two toupees.

27th Innermost Secret:

  • I’m really the Arts & Crafts Director.

Not really. I really was the Visiting Groups and Weekends Director. But it has always been my dream to be an Arts & Crafts Director. No, that’s a lie. It has always been my dream to be ten feet tall and have a backpack that dispenses frozen Coke whenever I want it. But neither of those dreams is coming true any time soon.

My Grandpa Shot Santa Claus

In the words of Doug Ten Napel:

This is a fairy tale. By fairy tale, I mean that this is true without being fact. There’s an important distinction we used to believe in that we don’t believe in so much any more, and that is the idea that there are truths outside of facts. The forms of story telling that best house this claim are Myth and Fairy Tale, for they are not about facts, but are about truth.

This is one of my favorite stories about my Grandpa Mosey. Whether or not it happened, I don’t know. It’s possible that I heard the story wrong and supplemented the rest from my imagination, but that is what makes the following tale a fairy tale. So, if you know the true story, don’t bother correcting me. I’ve got my own truth here, and it is pretty good.

Even better, it is short.

SantaHatMy Grandpa Mosey is best remembered for his skill as a fisherman, but when my dad was just a boy, my grandpa hunted as well.

It was December, not long before Christmas. In fact, my grandpa had been playing Santa in town for some VFW function. When he got home that night, he carried the rented Santa suit in one arm and his gun in the other. My dad, being just a boy at the time, saw what his father brought in and drew his own conclusions.

Bursting in tears and running to his room, he cried, “Daddy shot Santa Claus!”