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(image via flickr)

Not to be a total Grinch about it, but some of the lyrical content of traditional wintertime songs is seriously wanting for poetic rigor. For every lovely midnight clear and gladsome tidings, there’s a clunker of a couplet that carolers everywhere must tongue-twist their way around year after year. Christmas carols may not be high art, per se, but that doesn’t mean they have to be awful. So, in the spirit of public shaming Christmas, here are the most egregious offenders to watch out for.

Let it Snow

It doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve brought some corn for popping.

Try this fun experiment: next time you’re watching a movie, offer your friends some “corn for popping.” Their bewildered stares will confirm that this is not a thing that normal people say.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year 
There'll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing 

Not only is “mistletoe” not a verb, I don’t even know what it would mean if it were. Like, to mistletoe: to be nailed to a doorframe and be forced to watch people slobber on each other? Also, the “e” looks weird, but then again, “mistletoing” is more of a two-syllable sight-rhyme for “boing” instead of a couplet-match for “glowing.”

Deck the Halls

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la la la la!
'Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la la la la!
Don we now our gay apparel, Fa la la la la la la la!
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol, Fa la la la la la la la!

Who are you, Kid Rock? You can’t rhyme “la” with “la.” And don’t get smart with me about internal rhymes, either.

The First Noel

Then entered in those wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there in his presence
Their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.

Okay, I’ll grant you that, metrically, “frankincense” is not the easiest word to wedge in to a song. But besides the fact that “in his presence” is semi-redundant (like, they just “entered in.” Of course they’re present), placing it at the end of the line like this forces the last word to be an iamb when it should—obviously—be a trochee. The only people who say preh-ZENTS are probably also the people who refer to “corn for popping.”

Jingle Bells

A day or two ago,
I thought I'd take a ride,
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side;
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank,
And then we got upsot.

Set aside the fact that about as many people these days know the words to the second verse of Jingle Bells as are named Fanny (that is to say, not a lot). Do not be deceived: though it may sound like a charming archaism, upsot is a plain old made-up past participle for upset coined to follow “lot.” Why not use another, more logical equestrian word, like, I don’t know, “trot”? And come to think of it, what’s with the awkward, roundabout phrasing? What’s wrong with a simple “The horse was lean and lank / And also unlucky”?

Winter Wonderland

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song
As we go along
Walking in a winter wonderland

This reads like a classic case of sure-let’s-go-with-that: okay, hmm, bluebirds, what’ll—new bird, perfect! Now, okay…stuck with the avian metaphor, I guess, so…something something love song, something something along, phew, now just—WALKIN’ IN A WINTER WONDERLAND.

Yes, bluebirds probably fly south and/or die during the winter. No, there probably isn’t a kind of tradition-flouting “new bird” that’s stupid enough to migrate to cold climates instead of away from them. And if there is, it’s probably less a “love song” and more of a “hypothermia-induced funeral dirge” to salute its fallen winged brethren.

Bonus entry: Last Christmas

Last Christmas I gave you my heart,
but the very next day you gave it away

THIS. This is the single greatest fakeout in all of Yuletide music and a perennially unfair stumbling block to those of us who like to belt out WHAM! songs while battling traffic on the way to the guy who sells cheap-but-presentable Christmas trees out of a parking lot. When it comes to delivering on promises of AABB rhyme schemes, George Michael is a cheater and a rogue and I will not rest until the canonical recording of this song is altered to reflect what I always accidentally sing out loud because it makes way more sense, namely:

Last Christmas I gave you my heart,
but the very next day you tore it apart
(Emphasis mine, obviously, because how can you tell if someone is singing in bold)

 I don’t even want royalties for this. I just want justice.


Blair Thornburgh's picture

Blair Thornburgh

Blair Thornburgh is an editor at Quirk Books. A native Philadelphienne and apparent devotée of gendered demonyms, she makes a mean plate of scrambled eggs, a much friendlier cup of coffee, and would love to talk to you about (or in) multiple dead languages. Hwæt!