Friday, December 10, 2010

little christmas gangsters

We here at the Foreign Correspondent household have once again been listening to Christmas music since a few days before Halloween. (Despite my appreciation of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I typically argue that Halloween doesn't play as nice with Christmas as Thanksgiving does, but since I'm gone most of the day, my arguments mean nothing.) Suffice it to say, we FC's love Christmas music. It is the best represented genre in our collection. And, in case you're wondering, we prefer the classics. And The Manhattan Transfer album.

On to the point. As I was Christmas caroling with a youth group I work with, I was once again puzzled by the song "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas." For those of you unfamiliar, here are the lyrics to the first verse:

Jolly old St. Nicholas
Lean your ear this way
Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say

Christmas Eve is coming soon
Now you dear old man
Tell me what you'll bring to me
Tell me if you can.

(That is how I learned it, at least. I don't want to start a you-sing-it-wrong war here.)

This is supposed to be a lovely little song, representing the joy and innocence of childhood as a caring little moppet sits upon his/her hero's knee in joyful seasonal congress. But that is not how it ever sounded to me. I am writing this post so that I can finally get this off my chest.

The whole "tell me what you'll bring to me, tell me if you can," part sounds like a challenge to me. It is as if the kid is saying, look, Santa, I don't buy it. If you're really making these Christmas Eve deliveries, prove it. And that has sort of soured the whole carol for me. That line morphs the rest of it into a slightly menacing stream of insults.

Here, let me provide a translation:

Jolly old Saint Nicholas
Lean your ear this way

>"Jolly" is obviously code for "fat," here, and the whole "lean your ear this way" is an ageist comment intended to insult "old" Saint Nick.

Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say

>Its a threat. The "or what" portion of the threat is left intentionally vague to increase the menace.

Christmas Eve is coming soon
Now you dear old man

>This is like the thugs sent by a bookie to whom you owe money pretending to be nice and civilized. What is really being said here is that time is running out, and I like you, Santa, and it would be an awful shame to have to hurt you.

Tell me what you'll bring to me
Tell me, if you can

>Okay, I inserted the implied comma in the last line this time.

Do you see it? All the following verses are just like a Bond villain's monologue. The threat has been made in the fist verse. The little monster knows what Santa's done for everyone else. Santa is being warned that if he doesn't bring his A game, he, and likely the people he loves, is going to get it.

Here is a quick re-write of verse one, with all the euphemisms removed. Here is what the little sociopath is actually saying:

Listen up, fatty. You talk a good game, but you've only got until the 24th to make good. So what are ya gonna do for me?

And Santa. Keep you're mouth shut. Or someone's gonna get hurt.

Where is the holiday cheer there?

This isn't just a story you're covering - it's a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley.

Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.


Brya said...

Amen brother! I love this.

J.C. Loophole said...

Matt, erstwile Foreign Correspondent that you are, this post made my day! Like Lucy says in Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa may be backed by a Foreign Syndicate. Children may have to take extreme measures to insure Christmas stimulus!

Anonymous said...

She may have been on to something. I read the post to Mrs. FC, though, and she said I ruined the song for her. Whoops. But its always been add to me.

We hope you and all the loopholes are doing well. Happy Christmas.



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