Easter was NOT based on a pagan holiday

(This is a re-run from this blog in 2011, but it still needs to be said.  For more on this topic go here and here. )

The charge is that the word “Easter” derives from the name of a pagan fertility goddess “Eostre.” It is said that Christians took over a spring festival devoted to this deity. But this article by British historian Anthony McRoy debunks that claim: Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday? | Christian History.

Briefly, the connection to Eostre was made by the Venerable Bede, the medieval church historian, but we can find no other mention of the goddess or any festival associated with her. Prof. McRoy accounts for what may have been Bede’s misunderstanding with some other etymological accounts of the origin of our word “Easter.”

Besides, English and the other Germanic languages are the only languages that calls the Festival of the Resurrection “Easter.” Everyone else calls it some version of “Pascha,” which derives from the Hebrew word for “Passover.” And the holiday was celebrated extremely early in the church’s history, evidently by the 2nd century. And its original celebration in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean sea shows no connection at all to any pagan festivals.

 

Whoville vs. Whomville

The always amusing Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post writes about allegations that the word “whom” is doomed.

The Whos down in Whoville are perfectly safe. But the Whoms, down in Whomville, having staid, WASPy dinners of roast beast and refusing to pass Little Susie Lou Whom a slice unless she uses the subjunctive correctly in her request — they are in grave danger. Whom is struggling. [Read more...]

What to call Washington’s football team?

I usually cast a jaundiced eye at efforts to change the name of sports teams that refer to Native Americans.  After all, I reason, fans love their teams, so there can hardly be anything demeaning in what they call them.  I do understand tribal sensitivities in regard to mascots–misusing tribal symbols such as eagle feathers and perpetuating stereotypes–but I salute the Seminole Nation,for example, in affirming the dignified reference to their tribe by Florida State.

But Washington “Redskins”?  Yeah, that’s pretty racial and hard to justify.  Change is going to come eventually.  So, if the name of the football team that represents our nation’s capital is going to change, what should it be?  I am looking for suggestions both serious and humorous. [Read more...]

Jesus and other punsters

The BBC has a wonderful article by Sally Davies on puns, basically a review of John Pollack’s book  The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics.  The article offers different theories of puns, most of them ludicrous.  (Why are “power” and “coping with despair” considered valid categories of explanation, while “because they are funny” is apparently not?) Puns have often been condemned, though they are used by by such luminaries as Shakespeare and JESUS (so there can’t be anything wrong with them).  The article includes some world-class puns.  Read it, linked below.  Here is a sample: [Read more...]

Pro-whatever-the-situation-is

Planned Parenthood is finding that the label “pro-choice” is too limiting and is searching for new language:

“I’m neither pro-choice nor pro-life,” said one woman in a focus group commissioned by Planned Parenthood. “I’m pro-whatever-the-situation is.” Said another, “there should be three: pro-life, pro-choice and something in the middle that helps people understand circumstances [...] It’s not just back or white, there’s grey.” A recent research push by the organization found that large numbers of Americans feel this way — uncomfortable with both the pro-life and pro-choice labels. And so Planned Parenthood’s newest messaging will be moving away from the language of choice. [Read more...]

The new signature on our currency

President Obama has nominated his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to be the new Treasury Secretary. That has stirred some controversy. But what I worry about is his signature, which will go on all currency issues during his time in office:


[Read more...]


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