Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Hodgepodge

Greetings! Hodgepodge served here, a savory seasonal mix. Hodgepodge is an alteration of Middle English hochepot, from an Old French word for 'stew' (American Heritage Dictionary).


Ever wonder about the meaning and etymology of nowell? With this word, we see how Latin, French, and English intermix within a family of words, and how spelling can deviate from the root. Click image to enlarge or print.


Cashmas is coming! Consider the logic behind this slang term, quoted from the interactive but unofficial Urban Dictionary (beware, some content not suitable for school). "Cashmas is a celebration of materialism in which its celebrants attempt to flatter or impress relatives, friends, and acquaintances with the extent of their purchasing power." When last checked, approval ratings for this term were 1020 thumbs up, 427 down. Having students rate novel words in similar fashion should build word consciousness, resulting in vocabulary growth.


Dickens is in the public domain. Visit to read A Christmas Carol, no charge. Visit to listen to the audio version, no charge. Hundreds more titles and authors are available. As educators, we can share these links with families and use them in schools. Prompt wide reading and active listening to expand word and world knowledge, something poor children typically lack (Biemiller, last post; Hart & Risley, 1995).

Now, lest Dickens sic his spirits on us, let’s make merry! Bring on the figgy pudding (aka plum pudding, plum porridge, Christmas pudding, steamed pudding). Joyeux Noel!


  1. Anonymous12/20/2009

    As to the choice of holiday terms I give a thumbs down to 'cashmass' because so few of us have cash- but cash or not we can all celebrate Christmas. In fact a good way to celebrate may be to redistribute the cash. (The word here is not socialism but altruism?)
    The winter solstice is upon us and this is something few of us understand the exact meaning and origin of. Can you shine any light on the origin and exact meaning of the winter solstice? Some say it fell on Sunday, today, where others say it is tomorrow, December 21st.

  2. Thanks for the reminder, Anonymous! It’s not straightforward, because the date and time varies each year, ranging from December 20-23. Apparently, the winter solstice will occur on Monday, Dec. 21 at 12:47pm Eastern. The December solstice, aka winter solstice, is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, so each day afterward gets a bit longer, until the June solstice. Something to look forward to each day.

    Origins of the word: Romans spoke Latin. The Roman sun god was Sol. Related words: solar, solarium, solstice, parasol, etc. That explains the beginning of the word. The ending (stice) derives from the Latin root -stet- meaning ‘to stand’, or ‘to stand still’. We often see it spelled -sist. Related words: desist (stand away), resist (stand back against), insist (stand in place, stand your ground), consist (stand together), and subsist (stand with less than you need, endure). I could go on. This root family is large and includes several other spellings.

    Short story long, solstice means ‘sun standing still, stopping in place.’ It is, according to Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, “the darkest evening of the year.

    PS. The Greek sun god was Helios, as in heliocentric and heliotheraphy.

  3. PS Anonymous: Your comment about altruism reminds me of the singing scene in Grinch. Love that show.


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