Sunday December 23, 2012

Q: What the dickens does Scrooge have to do with Christmas?

A: Of all novelist Charles Dickens’ characters, Ebeneezer Scrooge is perhaps the most famous, the meanspirited protagonist of "A Christmas Carol" who epitomizes miserliness, says Anu Garg in "A Dord, a Diglot, and an Avocado or Two."

Is there a worse season for his penny-pinching ways and his "Bah humbugs" directed at anything loving, sentimental or caring about others?

If it doesn’t add to the bottom line, Scrooge wants none of it. And Christmas is right at the top of his list.

As the story goes, on Christmas Eve the miser is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who show him the sweep of his life with a glimpse into the future.

"Ultimately, Scrooge is reformed and becomes a charitable, caring and giving person, but the term ‘Scrooge’ applies to the penny-pinching one."

Interestingly, use of the word "dickens" as in the opening question does not refer to the novelist at all. It’s supposed to be a replacement for "devil" and as such antedates the birth of Charles Dickens by more than 200 years, Garg says.

Maybe a better question for this merry season: What in heaven would Christmas be like if there weren’t so many Scrooges around?

Q: You don’t want to go shopping for this one but if your kid starts singing "All I want for Christmas is some dinosaur coprolite," you can blame the Internet or her hip, brainy friends.


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What’s she got in mind?

A: Fossilized dino dung droppings, offered by one online source as a novelty gift that is actually educational, "Scientific American" magazine reported recently. Experts who study such waste material say they can learn details about the ancient reptilians’ habitat and diet (and how their innards worked), based on these remnants from long, long ago. BTW, "coprolite" is the scientific word for fossilized dung.

A companion gift for your bright, budding paleontologist daughter might be a build-it-herself Tyrannosuarus rex skeleton kit, complete with gympsum molds for making dinosaur teeth and a booklet describing each bone and explaining what has yet to be learned about these behemoths.

Q: It’s a winter wonderland out there, with snow words accumulating in near blizzard proportions. How many can you name?

A: It’s way more than flakes or flurries, fizzy or fluffy snow, freshly fallen or virgin snow. Dusting won’t cover it either. It’s more a snow cover, a hardpack, a snowfall or snowstorm building to a veritable avalanche of terms, leaving many of us snowed in or snowed under or snowbound, or just psychically "snowed" by nature’s snow job.

Maybe it’s time to put on our snowsuits and snowcaps and snowshoes and venture outside to build a snowman or a snowfort or have some snowfun with a good old-fashioned snowball fight, followed by a snowcone or two. (From the online "Words for Snow" by Gerald Erickson)

For more adventure, we could even go snowboarding or ride our snowmobile into regions where only Snow White may be truly pleased.

It sure beats getting out a snow shovel or snowblower to try to vanquish the powdery stuff.

In any case, just be glad it isn’t hail or slush or sleet or a white-out and that you won’t need to call out the snowplows or put on your snow tires or snow chains to get out of a snowdrift.

Now head back indoors for a snowspell, then turn on the TV and put your head back.

You might even close your eyes to all the gray-misted TV snow, resisting any thought of relocating to one of the ever-snowful lands such as Antarctica or the Alaskan Yukon. (From Pearson Adult Learning Centre.)

And for you kids, try your snow-hearted best to avoid "dissnowlusionment," which is when schools close due to a forecast of snow but no snow falls. That’s snow fun at all!

Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@cs.com.