Last Christmas Eve, naturally, the site Now I Know published We’re Gonna Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice. Dan Lewis then proceeded to dissect the adjectives.
“The word ‘nice’ is something you use when a stronger term of affection isn’t appropriate. [It] comes from the Latin word ‘nescius’ which literally meant ‘not knowing’ — basically ‘ignorant…’ It was, unambiguously, an insult, which in a roundabout way, is how it got to this catch-all way to give faint praise today.”
One of the running bits my wife and I enjoy together involves the TV show MASH. Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) says, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” That this line is given to the most buffoonish character on the show is telling.
Lewis adds, “The word ‘naughty’ has a similarly muddled history, and one which may reflect on how we, by default, often blame those in poverty for their situation. It literally means ‘having nothing’ — someone with ‘naught.'”
One of my pastors noted that his least favorite Christmas song is Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. I think it’s the “he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” bit. When I was a kid, I thought it was hyperbole that “he sees you when you’re sleeping…” But now, with the US National Security Administration, cameras everywhere, plus Alexa and Siri, not to mention Elf on a Shelf and Facebook, knowing what everyone’s doing seems entirely plausible for Claus.
However, my daughter asked a reasonable question. If Santa knows when you’ve been bad or good, how was he unable to recognize the bullying of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Remember that “all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.” Well, until he saved Christmas.
I think it’s similar to the cobbler’s kids going shoeless. Santa was externally oriented, but failed to see the abuse at his own place at the North Pole! I do believe he now has systems in place to avoid a repeat of that toxic situation.
For ABC Wednesday