Lafcadio Hern was a master of English. Today, he would have been apoplectic! – When ‘wicked’ is defined as ‘good’; when ‘cool’ is a response and not an adjective; when ‘awesome’ can mean anything you like and ‘talk to the hand’ is a form of rejection. Yes good old LH must be turning in his grave, poor chap. I bring this note of interest to everyone’s attention because it is, of course, that time of the year again and the festivities are almost always pre-empted by the traditional Christmas Card – albeit that today it may be an e-card etc.
As a copy writer I read the messages in Christmas cards with a certain sense of loss. Gone are the days when people were able to articulate their deepest feelings to each other, gone are the festive tingling of a well rounded sentence, long disappeared are the ‘egg noggin’ warm pros of a bygone era. Once people openly, and with some relief, transmitted their wishes in an unfettered and oft time pouting phraseology. To replace it we have the pre-written pen work of a brow beaten poet whose meter; syntax and rhythmic pace has long been compromised in search of a word to rhyme with ‘Xmas’. All we seem to get these days is the dull diatribe of a Xmas poem and a signature which would be worth more if it were on a cheque. I’m not saying Christmas is less festive, but it occurs to me that some of us are losing the art of communication in the written form. Mind you I’m not complaining, as a word smith I used to get asked to write copy; letters; resumes etc. but today I’m in demand to write everything from speeches to plea bargains. Yes, the world is getting bigger for me and less personal for everyone else – which is sad.
If we lose the art of communicating with each other by the written word, we’ll likely lose the only really meaningful messages that allow us to transmit the things we can’t say out loud. To some the term, “I love you!” carries its own fear and when men want to communicate their mateship feelings to a fellow male “I care!” sounds a bit ‘pussy’ – sorry Lafcadio.
This Christmas I have a plea and with it some really special advice. The plea is this; don’t just sign your name on the card – write something warm and sincere, and if you can’t, don’t send anything at all. And my advice? Well – perhaps it’s best exemplified by a testimonial of sorts. The most brilliant card I ever received was from a child I didn’t know. I was in hospital and the children at the local school had been encouraged to make a get well card for someone they didn’t know – someone who was sick in hospital. The senior nurse decided that I should be the recipient and it was from ‘Billy’ There were no Churchilian phrases; no Shakespearian tones nor did the words posses the wonders of Mark Twain or Alistair Cooke, rather they were simple and they came from the heart.
“Mr.”, Billy wrote, “I don’t know you, but I thought you’d like to know I’m sad you’re not well and I hope you get better real soon.”
If you want to write – keep it simple and talk from the heart. All you really need, to be a great writer is the simplicity of a child and the courage to say what you feel. A Merry Christmas to all and a big thank you. And a Merry Christmas to you Billy, where ever you are?. God bless you son!