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Who put the H in Christmas?

No questions from Tangiora this Monday because she is in Bali but grandson Morgan’s latest is, ‘Why is there an H in CHRISTMAS and CHEMIST?’

My reply:- When CH is used to spell [k] we know that word comes from Greece. The Greeks had a throaty [kh] sound, spelt with X — and also a plain [k] sound spelt with K. The Romans already used X to spell a different sound, the sound at the end of REX. When they adopted some Greek words they used CH instead of Greek X. Christ’s name in Greek starts with X, Χριστός. The Romans wrote it CHRISTUS. From that we get CHRISTMAS.

We only have one [k] sound now and so we could write KRIST, with a K. They do in Denmark. Or just C — they do that in Italy. In fact, the English used to write it with just C, not CH. However, when they found out that the ancient Romans used CH, to show it was a Greek word, they changed it from simple C to CH.

Maybe you will wonder now if Jesus was Greek? He wasn’t. The Greeks translated his Hebrew name, Messiah, which means Anointed One, into Greek, Χριστός. The Romans translated this into Christus.

If English words were spelt as simply as possible they would be a lot easier to read. Instead they are spelt to show where they come from. All words in which CH spells [k] come from the Greek language. CHRIST, CHRISTMAS, CHEMIST and here is a hard one, PSYCHOLOGY. It has three Greek clues in it — it starts with PS, it has a Y inside it, instead of I, and it uses CH to spell [k]. Words with RH are also Greek and all words with PH come from Greek but not PHONEY — it’s a phoney, it comes from an English word,

Now when you read you will be able to spot some Greek clues. Our words carry our culture. We read them AND we read into them, if we know how.

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