Bah! Humbug!

via Project Gutenberg

The dreary, sad existence of Ebenezer Scrooge that Charles Dickens paints in A Christmas Carol might not seem a fount of memorable images and phrases, but the references found in its pages are not limited strictly to the holiday season. (For example, when we call someone a “Scrooge” it’s synonymous for calling them a grouchy miser, regardless of the time of year.)

The characters and plot of the classic novel have become so ubiquitous that adaptations, especially during this time of year, are a dime a dozen. There are relatively faithful adaptations — from the likes of Mr. Magoo, The Muppets, and Jim Carrey — as well as departures such as Scrooged or even, some could argue, It’s a Wonderful Life.

The story of Scrooge, the greedy misanthrope who is visited by three ghosts giving him visions of Christmases past, present and future has given us a few expressions that we hear throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season. From Ebenezer’s sour rant of “Bah! Humbug!” becoming a shorthand to reference or tease those who are lacking in the Christmas spirit, to Tiny Tim’s joyful declaration of “God bless us, every one!” as a cheerful reminder of the joy of life, Dickens’ words have become a part of the way we celebrate and talk about this time of year.

We all know who the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are and perhaps we even wonder if we hear the rattling chains of Jacob Marley from time to time. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart has become an enduring tale and provides us a shorthand way of talking about the Christmas spirit, and perhaps, has even taught us a few lessons about it as well.

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