Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary

Published: 6th October 2016Goodreads badge
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

It’s history with the NASTY bits left in!

Do you want to know:
– A very rude pantomine song?
– Why making Christmas pudding used to be a crime?
– How to get rid of carol singers?

Horrible Christmas tells you all the festive facts you ever wanted to find out but were too stuffed full of mince pies to ask.

It’s Christmas time and what better way to celebrate than with a fabulous book that tells you everything you know about Christmas is either wrong or even more interesting than you thought? Legendary series Horrible Histories has taken hold of Christmas and filled up this fabulous book with trivia, fun facts, and a whole heap of history both intriguing and horrible all relating to this the festive season.

The book is also incredible funny and quirky and I loved learning all the facts about Christmas and the surrounding myths and associations. There are multiple quizzes to test your knowledge and it is fascinating about all the old traditions that have either been forgotten or the ones that live on today but I had no idea of the original reasons why. There’s some science in there too as the realities of Santa’s sleighing and reindeer endeavours are worked out with maths and logic (a lot funner than it sounds), plus the horrible bits of history that wouldn’t be Horrible Histories without it.

The book is laid out with pictures, colours, and trivia boxes and full page stories. There are topics like chapters breaking up the book into relevant information like Christmas Carols, Christmas History, Rotten Christmas etc that keep the topics together but there is still general crossover. Great to pop in and out of when you need a certain fun fact.

I love learning new things and fun facts and trivia are some of my favourite things in the world so this book is right up my alley and it is presented in such a fun and non-intimidating way that it is easily accessible. It isn’t just page after page of facts, the best part is you learn things in different ways, not just quizzes, not just the fact lists but with storytelling and humorous writing too. Information like the first Christmas card was printed in 1843, or that kissing under the mistletoe comes from a Druid tradition are told in clever ways that are interactive and make it a fun experience.

My favourite fun facts from the book must be included here because they are wonderful:

  • There were no angels around when Jesus was born. The reporters wrote in Greek of ‘angelos’ being there which is not Greek for angels, it’s Greek for ‘messengers’.
  • Silent Night was first played on a guitar.
  • The first record of Christmas being written down is in 1038 in a Saxon book where it appears as Cristes Maesse.
  • Little Jack Horner (of thumb in pie fame) was actually a monk who (supposedly) tricked Henry VIII out of a land deed at Christmas.
  • In the 1600s the Germans decided that the Christ Child should be worshipped at Christmas. They called him Christkindl – German for Christ Child. This became Kris Kringle and became a name for Santa Claus instead.
  • Rudolph was created for an advert in 1939
  • In the 1800s Christmas had almost died out but Charles Dickens bought back its popularity with ‘A Christmas Carol’.

There’s definitely a lot more but these ones stood out. There’s so much to learn in this book about old customs, traditions from Victorians and other eras, other countries, present day and the past. It is fascinating to see what feels like an ingrained tradition or idea is actually manufactured or something so old was really a simple thing at first.

If you have been a fan of Horrible Histories in the past this is a great addition with a nice holiday theme, but if this is your first experience of Horrible Histories it is also a great book because you get to learn a little more about Christmas and its history and love the joyfulness that is Horrible Histories.

You can purchase Horrible Christmas via the following

QBDDymocks | Amazon

Quoting Shakespeare

If Shakespeare required a word and had not met it in civilised discourse, he unhesitatingly made it up.”
– Anthony Burgess

Shakespeare.words_The fact that Shakespeare added over 1700 words to the English language is a well-known fact that has been used to show off his creativity and ingenuity but how true is it? Shakespeare created new words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and creating entirely original words. Arguments have been made over whether adding prefixes to existing words counts as a new word or not. Does adding ‘arch’ to villain to create arch-villain mean a new word is created? ‘Assassination’ existed in a form in both English and Arabic before Macbeth, does this mean Shakespeare created that intention of the word? If we leave the deep discussion to the linguists and take the number as is, there are so many we use today. I will restrain myself from posting a massive list but there is a collection on a few sites which I’ve linked below. A small selection of created words include:

accused | addiction | advertising | amazement | arouse | bandit | bedroom | besmirch | blanket | blushing | bet | bump | buzzer | champion | compromise | courtship | critic | dauntless | dawn | deafening | drugged| dwindle | elbow | excitement | eyeball | fashionable | flawed | gloomy | gnarled | grovel | hint | hobnob | impartial | lonely | luggage | lustrous | majestic | marketable | metamorphise | mimic | negotiate | obsequiously | ode | olympian | outbreak | puking | rant | scuffle | skim milk | submerge | summit | swagger | torture | tranquil | worthless | zany

Of course, since Shakespeare added completely new words to the language he deserves credit for that, and many words he used existed already he merely popularised them. One thing he can be credited with, away from individual words, he was also the creator of phrases and terms we still use today. These are a few phrases that have survived the centuries and cemented themselves so deep in English language that it’s hard to believe we were once without them.

Come what may (Macbeth) | Heart of gold (Hamlet)
Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida) | Knock-knock (Macbeth)
All of a sudden (The Taming of the Shrew) | Faint-hearted (Henry IV part I)
Heart of gold (Henry V) | Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)
Brave new world (The Tempest) | Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
For goodness’ sake (Henry VIII) | Foregone conclusion (Othello)
Love is blind (The Merchant of Venice) | The beast with two backs (Othello)
Assassination (Macbeth) | Bated breath (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Be-all and end-all (The Merchant of Venice) | One fell swoop (Macbeth)
Kill with kindness Macbeth | Twinkling of an eye (The Merchant of Venice)
Fair play (The Tempest) | Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)
As good luck would have it (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

shakespeare_words_used_todayThere are also a range of words Shakespeare invented and used that have faded into history. On the Shakespeare-themed QI episode Stephen Fry discusses them and their meanings. Some of these include kickie-wickie, tanling, slugabed, boggler, wappened, and carlot. More can be found here. Another incredibly fun way to remember the words and phrases Shakespeare gave us is through song. Horrible Histories created a wonderful and catchy song about Shakespeare’s words which you can find here, they also did a skit about Shakespeare on Mastermind with his phrases. But, if you get carried away thinking Shakespeare quoted everything, there is are a few blogs dedicated to proving that not everything is from Shakespeare which you can find here and here.

Virginia Woolf asked in To the Lighthouse, “If Shakespeare had never existed…would the world have differed much from what it is today? Does the progress of civilisation depend upon great men? Is the lot of the average human being better now that in the time of the Pharaohs?” Looking at the range of words and phrases that we use every day without even thinking about their origins it would certainly be a different world if Shakespeare had never existed. So much of our language would be different, the deeper you fall into his dictionary of terms it’s really quite hard to imagine.

Links and Bits

Words Shakespeare invented
Unsuccessful Shakespearean words
Quips Created by Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s Neologisms
Words Shakespeare used that had different meanings