It was the slogan “Let’s Merry!” that pushed me over the edge.
I’ve got nothing against Starbucks. They’ve raised the bar on coffee quality and encouraged a whole new economy, which isn’t always a bad thing. But their slogan, which transforms another innocent adjective into a dubious verb, irked the placid English major dozing inside me.
It used to be that only sports broadcasters and financial gurus made a practice of taking respectable nouns and turning them into hotrod verbs. Now everybody’s doing it. And one part of me says, yay! As a child of the fifties I was born and raised with a healthy appetite for jargon and the glamour of commercial lingo. As a lover of literature I value the organic muscular nature of English, its rough and ready quippery, the slippery DNA of its slang, even the gobbledygook of acronymic nonsense.
But whether it’s something in the holiday atmosphere, or the eggnog, in this season of mirth and marketing, the wanton verbing (yes, mea culpa) of law abiding nouns is getting out of hand. Perhaps to deck the malls with crowded folly you gotta learn to urbify the wordiage. Verbify the messaginistic wave of urgency defying all buzz-killing ratiocination. You gotta spendify to splendify!
And if you buy into the madness that is Christmas marketing, ’tis the season to cast your credit limit to the winds.
But suppose you find yourself a bit cash-strapped, or afflicted by a nagging conscience about the morality of spending like there’s no tomorrow when, really, there’s plenty of evidence which, while blithely ignored by a vocal segment of our fiercely independent nation, nonetheless strongly suggests that our current self-indulgent ways may turn out to be a self-fulfilling strategy to ensure that there will, in fact, be no tomorrow?
Of course contemplating all of this is fatiguing to say the least. Thus, as the days get shorter and darker, and clamorous with the chanting of the discontented and the incessant Christmas music, some weary souls may feel the urge to let go of the tiller on the good ship Reason and fling themselves headlong into the drink.
But wait. There’s light at the end of this holiday tunnel.
How to cope? In a word: cookies.
Yes, Virginia, there are Christmas cookies. Long after all faith in the fat man has vanished, along with dreams of world peace, or true love, or even a modestly satisfying one-night stand, the simple pleasure of a well made Christmas cookie endures.
When I was young, so much younger than today, my father worked in a small law firm where the annual Christmas party was a family affair. For my brothers and me there was only one memorable aspect to this event. We called her The Cookie Lady. You know the type. Before Martha Stewart and all the modern blogging kitchen vixens overwhelmed us with their clever and arty creations, there were always women like The Cookie Lady, who somehow found time and energy to make dozens and dozens of fantastic cookies – and I don’t mean just the typical iced sugar cookies. We’re talking bars and logs and layered confections, dipped in chocolate, rolled in nuts. These weren’t some slice n’ bake, prefab bland biscuits. These were ethnic, ancient, evocative cookies with a past. Proust would understand.
Perhaps a cookie seems a trivial thing on which to plant a flag of hope. It would have to be a small flag.
But that’s kind of the point. When the holiday season inflates expectations so far beyond the scope of our short time here on Earth, a step back from the edge can work wonders. Even in these mega-sized, over-priced, under-nourished times, a certain measure of comfort and joy can still be found in something as small and fragile as a home-made, hand-made Christmas cookie.
Take a moment. Take a bite. Try to remember when a cookie was enough.