Merry

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Merry

In contemporary English the word "merry" means "jolly," "cheerful," "lively," or "happy." Few people realize, however, that it once meant something slightly different. At the time the English coined the phrase "Merry Christmas," merry meant "pleasant," "delightful," or "joyful." Thus, at that time, the well-known phrase "merry England" did not mean "jolly England," but rather "pleasant" or "delightful" England. When used to describe a holiday, the word "merry" signaled that it was a time of festivity or rejoicing.

In greeting one another with the phrase "Merry Christmas," the English were wishing each other a festive and joyful holiday. The sixteenth-century English Christmas carol, "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen," offers another example of this usage. Contemporary English speakers often interpret the title of this song to mean something like "God Rest You, Jolly Gentlemen." In fact, the comma separating "merry" from "gentlemen" in the original phrase tells us that in this context "merry" does not function as an adjective describing the gentlemen in question. In the sixteenth century, "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" meant "God Rest You Joyfully, Gentlemen" or, as contemporary English speakers might be more likely to say, "God Keep You Joyous, Gentlemen" (for the phrase "Merry Christmas" in differentlanguages, see Merry Christmas and Happy New Year).

Further Reading

Weiser, Francis X. The Christmas Book. 1952. Reprint. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1990.
References in periodicals archive ?
The 5lb claimer was a late deputy for Kieren Fallon and Merrymaker was one of four winners that the former champion missed out on after his decision to go Stateside for the weekend.
Merrymaker will be strong against him in the market but the race he won at Wolverhampton early in the month when heavily backed was not strong and, under contrasting conditions today, he is worth taking on.
Fallon put his winnerless afternoon at Newmarket behind him by landing the seller for James Given on Bob's Flyer, and later took his tally for the campaign to 163 when getting top-weight Merrymaker home in the mile-and-a-half handicap to complete a double for Mark Brisbourne.
Patrick Mathers, who rode Merrymaker, received a four-day suspension (September 24-27) for using his whip with excessive frequency.
Richard Fahey, Ryan's former boss, also took his tally for the season to 49 winners courtesy of Bramantino, who came good in the 12-furlong handicap under a tremendous ride from apprentice Tony Hamilton to get the better of Can Can Charlie and Merrymaker in a head-bobbing finish.
Merrymakers also get drunk on thandai laced with bhaang (an intoxicant) on this day and behave in a rowdy manner.
Baguio City - The chief of the Baguio City Police Office warned visitors and merrymakers during this weekend's grand Panagbenga Festival celebration to be wary of pickpockets, following the arrest of six suspects on Session Road last Thursday.
Merrymakers also jammed French Quarter bars and narrow streets to party with abandon.
Oz acts as Grand Marshal of the parade, there will be a collection of musical performances from artists including: The Village People, CeeLo Green, Ruben Studdard and The Band of Merrymakers, which features Tyler Glenn (Neon Trees), Zach Barrett (American Authors), Jeremy Ruzumna (Fitz & The Tantrums) and Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo).
Be sure to check times beforehand to avoid THE SELFRIDGES PARTY PARADE December 2, 9 and 16, noon-4pm, Bullring, Birmingham Join Santa and his joyous procession of merrymakers for a see-it-to-believe-it festive celebration like no other, with confetti cannons and a marching band.
Overflowing San Miguel Pale Pilsen draft beer, loads of German sausages, upbeat traditional German and international pop music, and wildly cheering merrymakers made the Oktoberfest celebration at the Harbour Garden Tent of Sofitel Philippine Plaza on Oct.
Band of Merrymakers, a rotating holiday supergroup of travelling troubadours, will release a new holiday medley 'A Very Merry Medley' available this Friday, October 28th.