A Bum's Christmas
December 25, 2012 5:28 AM   Subscribe

""Why in hell," he observed impatiently, "do all them goddam hypocrites keep the poor bums waiting for two, three hours while they get off their goddam whimwham? Here is a hall full of men who ain't had nothing to speak of to eat for maybe three, four days, and yet they have to set there smelling the turkey and the coffee while ten, fifteen Sunday-school superintendents and W.C.T.U. [Women's Christian Temperance Union] sisters sing hymns to them and holler against booze. I tell you, Mr. Ammermeyer, it ain't human." -- H. L. Mencken's A Bum's Christmas is the best Christmas story for those more of the humbug than the happy holidays persuasion.
posted by MartinWisse (22 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Larry and his associates were pretty well fagged out by now

Interesting. It's a synonym for "fatigue". I'd never heard that before.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:44 AM on December 25, 2012


Even those loaves and fishes came with a sermon. Blessed are the cheesemakers...
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 AM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"goddam whimwham" is a phrase that I will be looking to use in conversation
posted by thelonius at 6:02 AM on December 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


the best Christmas story for those more of the humbug than the happy holidays persuasion.

...and for that same humbug crowd - Cyriak's latest bizzaro animation may be the best Christmas YouTube video - at least this year.
posted by fairmettle at 6:28 AM on December 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a swell tale... but man, what kind of knuckledragger abridges Mencken?!
posted by Scram at 6:34 AM on December 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whim-wham is a dead phrase now, but it goes back to the 1500s. I like the dictionary.com entry, because it does mention the similar terms flimflam and jimjam. Whim-wham is a synonym of gimcrack and related to knickknack, which is related to bric-a-brac, which is in turn related to geegaw.

The more you study words like these, the more you say them over and over, the sillier they sound, and the more it knicks my paddywhack.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:39 AM on December 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


A lot of religious organizations like to cast people as utter wretches and drag them through humiliation before they actually give them any help.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:48 AM on December 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


My problem with Christmas is that, by setting aside a special time of year for basic kindness, it subtly reduces that impulse across the rest of the year. It implies that the way you treat people during that season is exceptional, instead of how you should act all the time.
posted by JHarris at 8:02 AM on December 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've always had the same thought about a church activity some of my friends do each month. They go down to a shelter for homeless women and children, and they make a huge dinner and feed all 200 people staying there.

That's great, but then after people sit down with their food, they start praying, preaching, and playing hymns.

I go to participate sometimes just to help out, and I try to duck out once the music starts. But my wife refuses to go at all because she's so opposed to it.

I always gently argue to my friends that the more "Christian" thing to do would probably just be to give someone food, tell them you care, and leave it at that.

That always seems to fall on stone ears.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:27 AM on December 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


by setting aside a special time of year for basic kindness, it subtly reduces that impulse across the rest of the year.

This bugs me too. In a few more days, it'll be the season for not caring anymore.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:46 AM on December 25, 2012


This bugs me too. In a few more days, it'll be the season for not caring anymore.

Well then, pretend you're Californian and live in the one kind season all year round .
posted by notyou at 8:57 AM on December 25, 2012


Well then, pretend you're Californian and live in the one kind season all year round .

This old hippie sees what you did there. No need to pretend. Transplanted in Tx and still pining for the north coast every day. Here's another Texan invoking the vibe, man.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:29 AM on December 25, 2012


by setting aside a special time of year for basic kindness, it subtly reduces that impulse across the rest of the year.

I like to joke that the other 11 months, we're supposed to pretend that Mr. Potter is the good guy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to go shopping for presents all fucking year long; I don't care how kind I'm supposed to be.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:42 AM on December 25, 2012


What if you did the shopping for and gifting of presents that you'd ordinarily do Christmas spread throughout the year?
posted by JHarris at 10:49 AM on December 25, 2012


On Christmas day you can't get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore,
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four.
posted by fings at 10:56 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if you did the shopping for and gifting of presents that you'd ordinarily do Christmas spread throughout the year?

I'd have to give my dad one twelfth of a tie every month.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:56 AM on December 25, 2012


The ending's a bit of a downer, unless we accept the premise that the guy throwing the party was The Grinch. His secular ways were roundly defeated by the Christmas Spirit!
posted by Earthtopus at 12:45 PM on December 25, 2012


I'd like one twelfth of a different tie every month.
posted by arcticseal at 1:37 PM on December 25, 2012


notyou: "pretend you're Californian and live in the one kind season all year round"

While I see (and appreciate… *koff*) what you did there, this Californian would like to point out that it is always time for the Untied Way.
The Untied Way is the tribute good fortune pays to bad luck. It makes no judgments or assessments of its clients. It is not the first step; it is not a step at all. It is just charity, done in the name of charity. If we are truly to love each other, it might be interesting to start with the hard cases.
posted by Lexica at 2:29 PM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Christmas is the fulcrum by which all the other unfeeling and uncaring of the year is leveraged.
posted by telstar at 4:42 PM on December 25, 2012


In case you didn't get flings' lyrics quote, it's by Tom Lehrer
posted by sineater at 7:58 PM on December 25, 2012


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