Word of the Week

Hogmanay (hog’ma-nay):

The last day of the year, when children traditionally went from house to house asking for presents. It also refers to a small cake given to children on New Year’s day. More recently it has become a raucous New Year’s Eve party in many Scottish cities.

Usage: The traditional Hogmanay includes “first footing,” welcoming a tall, dark stranger at the stroke of midnight. First-footers should bring a gift such as uisge beatha “water of life” (Scotch, it’s a drink, not a nationality *snort*), a lump of coal, or a bannock, a simple oat cake. This tradition reaches back to the Viking era, when the blond, blue-eyed Vikings brought only bad luck to whomever they visited. Today groups of friends gather and visit other friends. Whichever party you join this year, look out for the accent on the final syllable of today’s word.

Suggested Usage:
If you would like to add a bit of innovation in your end-of-the-year greetings, try “Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay!” for a change. If you go to the Hogmanay street party in Edinburgh or Glasgow, though, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to hear you.

Etymology:
The sense of “Hogmanay” corresponds to that of Old French aguillanneuf “the last day of the year, new year’s gift.” In modern French dialects it survives as “aiguilan,” “guilané,” and “guilanneau” but in Normandy it is “hoguignettes” or “hoguinané,” whence it probably invaded Scottish English. The French term survives today in the phrase au gui l’an neuf! “(kiss) under the New Year’s mistletoe.” Others speculated that “hogmanay” itself comes either from the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath “holy month” or Gaelic oge maidne “new morning.”

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