Monday, December 15, 2008

Trim, the Mystery

English is a funny language, with much grist for the humor mill (or humour mill, across the pond). George Carlin, who died this year, surely made much hay of our funny linguistic harvestings. Am I mixing enough metaphors here?

Trim got me thinking. We talk about "trimming the tree" at Christmastime, but in doing so we are adorning and adding ornaments. how is that trimming? Maybe the sense comes from trimming, or paring, the tree to its ornamentable size (as we did Saturday, when we hunted one down at a farm and hauled it home). I gladly participated in the ritual sawing and hoisting and erecting in the stand, then I took a nap and let the ladies have at it, ornamentwise (actually, I hate that overuse of -wise as a suffix; the estimable reference book Words Into Type cites a New Yorker cartoon in which one owl says to another something like, "So, wisewise, how are things?" HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHA. [H]owls of laughter). This year after bringing the box of ornaments down from the attic, I studiously avoided all manner of familial tension regarding the stringing of lights or placement of baubles. My nap on Sunday was luxuriously guilt-free (yes, the day after we fetched the tree from the proxy-quasi-semi-Bavarian forest).

But we trim our hair, which is taking away.

If you drill down far enough in the etymology of trim, you find that "trim a tree" is redundant, because trim is a tree, or was long ago, in the knotty-so-distant-past we sometimes pine for, oakay?

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